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Lightning expected to have Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman for playoffs

The Lightning should have two of their more important players who dealt with injury before the break back for the playoffs.

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Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning passes the puck to Victor Hedman against Kevin Hayes #13 of the Philadelphia Flyers on January 11, 2020 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning are favorites alongside the Boston Bruins to win the 2020 Stanley Cup. Both teams are +650 and are neck and neck in the Atlantic Division. Tamp Bay was dealing with some injuries to key players before the season was brought to a halt by the Covid-19 virus in March, but should be relatively healthy heading into the postseason when it gets them back.

Centre Steven Stamkos is second to only Nikita Kucherov in points among Lightning players and underwent core muscle surgery in February. He was initially expected to miss six to eight weeks while recovering from his operation, but the Lightning slowed his rehabilitation down once the hockey season was suspended. Head coach Jon Cooper said the center is getting better every day and anticipates having all his key players back in the mix for the playoffs.

That bodes well for Victor Hedman, who was voted in as the NHL’s best defenseman by the NHLPA in March. Hedman was fully recovered ahead of Phase 2 of the NHL’s plan to resume play after an undisclosed he suffered in March by May, according to a report from The Athletic. If both players are back at 100 percent come August, the Lightning remain a top contender.