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Hedman to stay behind as Bolts depart for Toronto

The Norris Trophy finalist will rejoin the team on Friday after attending to a "personal matter" in Tampa

by Bryan Burns @BBurnsNHL / TampaBayLightning.com

The Tampa Bay Lightning completed their restart training camp Sunday at AMALIE Arena and will depart for the Toronto bubble later Sunday evening.

Norris Trophy finalist defenseman Victor Hedman will not be on that flight.

Before answering questions from media during his post-training camp availability, Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois announced Hedman asked to be granted a few more days in Tampa to attend to a "personal matter."

Hedman will stay in Tampa along with Tampa Bay director of high performance and strength coach Mark Lambert until Friday, at which point both will fly to Toronto and meet back up with the team.

"We're essentially extending their Phase 3 where they will continue to test every day," BriseBois said. "He'll get to skate here at AMALIE Arena and get some off-ice workouts with Mark."

Hedman will miss Tampa Bay's exhibition contest against the Florida Panthers Wednesday, July 29 in Toronto but will be available for all three round robin games, BriseBois said. The Lightning begin the Stanley Cup Playoffs Monday, August 3 versus the Washington Capitals at Scotiabank Arena.

"Victor will be available to play the three seeding games and get a few practice days before those seeding games," BriseBois said.

Hedman was named one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the National Hockey League's best defenseman, on Monday. He is the first defenseman since fellow Swede Nicklas Lidstrom (2005-06 to 2008-09 with Detroit) to be a finalist for the award four-consecutive seasons.

Hedman notched 11 goals, 44 assists and 55 points in 2019-20, finishing the regular season ranked third among NHL defensemen for scoring.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos skated in the smaller, early group on the final day of Lightning training camp along with Luke Schenn, Mathieu Joseph, Carter Verhaeghe, Alex Volkov and Scott Wedgewood and didn't participate in a full practice with his teammates during the two-week camp while recovering from a lower-body injury sustained during Phase 2 of the NHL's Return to Play Plan.

Stamkos will not participate in Wednesday's exhibition against Florida, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said, but is hopeful to be able to play in at least one of the Bolts' three round robin contests.

"We're taking this day by day," Cooper said. "But there has been a lot of improvement and hopefully we can start ramping things up with Stammer in Toronto."
Cooper said it's "vital" Stamkos participates in one of the round robin game in preparation for when the Lightning begin the best-of-seven, Eastern Conference Quarterfinal round, but is unsure if he will be able to do so.

"I think he'd be the first one to tell you, if he could play in most of the (round robin) games it would be a bonus," Cooper said. "Love to get him in one, would be even better to get him in two, it'd be awesome to get him in all three, but we'll take one at a time. One's better than none, and if that's not the case, he's been in these situations before. I think it was 2016 he didn't play the entire playoffs and ended up getting in one game and had a pretty good game there. It's hard to jump into these games, so if you can get him one or two beforehand, I think that will be a big step for our team but more importantly him."

With Stamkos the only injured player as the Lightning head to Toronto, BriseBois said he decided on a roster of 16 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which means the 25 players on the roster at the NHL pause will head to Toronto along with forwards Volkov and Joseph and Wedgewood as the third goaltender.

"Every decision that we've been making, we've been focusing on making sure that the players that are going to be playing games for us are ready to put their best foot forward come playoff time," BriseBois said. "So with that in mind, we kind of looked historically, how many players have teams needed if they're fortunate enough to go through four rounds of playoffs over the last 10 years? No team has used more than nine defensemen and only one team has used more than 16 forwards."

BriseBois added he believes by the time Tampa Bay's games start in Toronto, Stamkos "will be fully healthy and a full participant."

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