Vladislav Namestnikov will likely return to the Lightning lineup on Tuesday when Tampa Bay hosts Arizona in the final game of a three-game homestand.
Namestnikov practiced with the Bolts on Monday wearing a regular jersey for the first time since re-injuring himself March 13 at the New York Rangers. Namestnikov said he thinks he will be okay to play against the Coyotes.
"It was a step forward, and I felt pretty good," Namestnikov said about being a full participant in practice. "I think I'm ready."
Namestnikov has missed four of the Lightning's last five games with a lower-body injury. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper confirmed the Russian center could be back as soon as the Arizona game.
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"Hopefully we've got numbers to choose from come tomorrow," Cooper said. "But, yeah, sounds like the odds are pretty good.
Namestnikov was injured March 9 in a Lightning home victory over Minnesota. He missed a game before returning four days later at the New York Rangers but re-aggravated the injury and has been forced to sit since.
"It's always tough when you're hurt, and re-injuring that same thing was really tough," Namestnikov said. "But, we did good rehab, and I'm ready to go."
Namestnikov ranks eighth on Tampa Bay for assists (15) and ninth for points (24).
The injury news isn't quite as rosy for two more Lightning centers also dealing with lower-body ailments from that March 9 game against the Wild, Cedric Paquette and Tyler Johnson.
Paquette practiced Monday for the first time since getting injured but wore a red no-contact jersey.
"It's always fun to see guys starting to come back and seeing guys out there working hard and trying to get back into the lineup and help the team," Bolts defenseman Victor Hedman said. "It's always a big boost for a team to see guys coming in, and hopefully we can get them back sooner than later."
Paquette has missed the last five games. He has four goals and six assists on the season.
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"Tough kid," Cooper said. "With those injuries, you never know. I remember when Stralman's happened, it was much more severe than Ceddy's, but Ceddy's was still a pretty ugly injury. That's the first time he's jumped on the ice, so he's a little bit of time away. It's crunch time now. We've got to try and get these guys back as fast as we can."
Tyler Johnson was once again absent from practice, and no timetable has been given for his return. The Lightning's second-leading goal scorer (19 goals) has also missed the last five games.
Meanwhile, Steven Stamkos continues to participate in Lightning practice wearing a regular jersey and even took part in some small ice two-on-two drills that featured contact as well as tight skating.
"I think part of it too is it's not only a comfort level with his injury but now you've got to kind of get back into, I mean he's in shape but you can't replicate being out there in practice and grinding through and getting bumped and hit so I think that's going to take a little time," Cooper said. "But every day he comes off and there are no setbacks, so that's a really good sign."