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Lightning's Hedman out against Devils

Defenseman could return for regular-season finale Saturday if 100 percent

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman will miss his second straight game Thursday against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center because of an upper-body injury.

Hedman, 25, participated in the morning skate Thursday, taking turns with Matt Carle and Nikita Nesterov, and said he felt good.

"This is the time of year you want to be 100 percent for sure and the Stanley Cup Playoffs start next week," Hedman said. "I think I'll have a good chance (to play) on Saturday."

The Lightning will clinch the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic Division on Thursday if they defeat the Devils in any fashion or if they get one point against the Devils and the Detroit Red Wings lose to the Boston Bruins in any fashion or if the Red Wings lose to the Bruins in regulation.

Hedman said the result against the Devils will have no bearing on his decision to play Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens.

"I want to play as many games as I can," he said. "Everyone knows you can't just rest and push a button and you're ready for the playoffs. I'd like to play the game Saturday but we'll see how my body feels the next few days. I had a good skate [Thursday] and I felt good so it's a good sign."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper is holding out hope Hedman, who led the Lightning in average ice time (23:57) in the 2015 playoffs, will be able to play in the regular-season finale.

"It was very encouraging seeing him out there [Thursday]," Cooper said. "I'm not ruling out him playing in Montreal."

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