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McDonagh could return to Lightning during upcoming road trip

Defenseman out against Canadiens with lower-body injury, may face Bruins, Red Wings this weekend

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Ryan McDonagh skated Thursday and could return for the Tampa Bay Lightning during their upcoming road trip.

Coach Jon Cooper said the defenseman, who has missed 12 games since sustaining a lower-body injury when he blocked a shot during a 4-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 6, won't play against the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; SUN, TSN2, RDS, NHL.TV) in the finale of a five-game homestand. But Cooper said McDonagh might return during a three-game trip that begins at the Boston Bruins on Saturday and continues at the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday and at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

McDonagh, who has 12 points (one goals, 11 assists) in 48 games this season, was a full participant at practice Wednesday. Defenseman Jan Rutta, who sustained a lower-body injury in a 4-2 win against the Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 4 and has missed 13 games, skated in a no-contact jersey at practice.

McDonagh said he's not worried about reinjuring himself but won't return to lineup before he's ready. 

"It shouldn't flare up again hopefully any time soon," McDonagh said Thursday. "But it's a physical game out there and pucks are flying, so we'll see happens, but I'm not going to rush back and put myself in any kind of harm.

"Getting close [to returning] here. It's been good to get a couple of good skates, especially [Wednesday] with the team. Keep working here and hopefully I'll get in soon."

Without McDonagh, the Lightning had allowed at least three goals in seven consecutive games before a 2-1 home loss to the Bruins on Tuesday. That loss dropped the Lightning (41-20-5), who are second in the Atlantic Division, nine points behind the first-place Bruins. Tampa Bay is nine points ahead of the third-place Maple Leafs.

NHL.com independent correspondent Corey Long contributed to this report

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