TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, a key missing component on an injury-stressed defense, took part in the morning skate with the team for the first time since being hurt and declared himself close to returning.
Hedman suffered a concussion Dec. 27 against Philadelphia and will miss his 13th consecutive game Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"It's just a matter of time until I get back into game-shape," Hedman said. "During the All-Star break I'm not going to lay on the beach or anything like that. I'm going to work hard and get prepared for when the season re-starts."
Sitting out during his recovery has been a chore for Hedman.
"Being off the ice is the worst thing," Hedman said. "Hockey is my life and it's what I do for a living. When you can't do what you want it's tough to be real happy, but I've been trying to keep my mood up as much as I can. I'm on the right track now and things are moving in the right direction."
Hedman said he hoped to be ready to play by Jan. 31, the Lightning's first game back after the break.
Lightning coach Guy Boucher was more reserved about that prospect, but hopeful.
"It's a possibility," Boucher said. "But we'll see. I'm not a doctor. But after all the time we've been waiting for him, it's nice to see he's doing well."
The return of Hedman to the lineup would be a morale boost for the Lightning, who are missing nine starters due to injury.
"He's a dominant player and they are rare in our League, so we definitely need him," Boucher said.
Evan Oberg, currently on his seventh call-up from the team's AHL affiliate Norfolk since Dec. 2, will finally see some game action tonight, his debut as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"I'm happy for him," Boucher said. "He's been up and down, waiting for an opportunity to come in and contribute and he'll get that opportunity tonight."
Oberg appeared in four career games as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.