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Vasilevskiy to start for Lightning against Maple Leafs

Goalie has missed 14 games with broken left foot

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- Andrei Vasilevskiy will start for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Amalie Arena on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; TVAS, SUN, SNO, NHL.TV), his first game back after missing 14 games with a broken left foot.

The 24-year-old goalie was a full participant in practice on Wednesday, and coach Jon Cooper confirmed Vasilevskiy would start after the morning skate Thursday.

Vasilevskiy broke his foot during practice on Nov. 14.

Lightning center Steven Stamkos said Vasilevskiy's return will give Tampa Bay a boost after backup goalie Louis Domingue filled in well in his absence. 

"Feels great," Stamkos said. "He's been our MVP for a long time. Domingue really stepped up and our guys played great in front of him as well... We have full belief in any goalie we have, we're not changing our game just because of that."

Vasilevskiy did not speak with the media after practice and routinely doesn't talk on game days. He was given a 4-6 week timeline to recover and Wednesday was four weeks since he was injured. He returned to the ice in a limited capacity Dec. 6 and has practiced or skated with the Lightning every day since.

"The type of injury he had is not a lingering type thing," Cooper said. "It had to heal and once it heals, it's good."

The Lightning are 12-2-0 since Vasilevskiy's injury. They are on a seven-game winning streak and have the best record in the NHL (24-7-1). Vasilevskiy is 9-3-1 with a 2.29 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Domingue is 11-2-0 since replacing Vasilevskiy and his 14 total wins are third in the NHL. Tampa Bay has also been getting it done offensively, scoring at least four goals in 12 of its past 14 games.

Goalie Edward Pasquale was reassigned to Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Tuesday.

"It's a team sport and the reason you've got guys in line waiting to play is in case injuries happen," Cooper said. "You don't want anybody get to hurt, ever, but you can lose your starting goaltender for a month or so. That's 15 or 16 games. Somebody's got to fill that void and step in and Louis has done an unreal job."

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