The Tampa Bay Lightning will be without one of their best players for the start of the 2023-24 season.
The team announced that Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy is expected to miss approximately the first two months of the regular season due to back surgery.
The procedure was a microdiscectomy that addressed a lumbar disc herniation. The Russian goaltender went under the knife this morning.
Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy underwent a successful microdiscectomy this morning to address a lumbar disc herniation.
Vasilevskiy is expected to miss approximately the first two months of the regular season.https://t.co/DCdJqmen3C
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) September 28, 2023
Per the Hospital for Special Surgery, the procedure helps relieve pain when a herniated disc in the spine begins pressing on an adjacent nerve root. Small fragments of disc, bone, and ligament are removed during the surgical procedure to free the nerve from the pressure.
Vasilevskiy had only participated in one Training Camp practice before being sidelined.
Asked Jon Cooper about this, said nothing has changed on this front and nothing to read into it but Vasilevskiy is on the ice working with goalie coach Frantz Jean https://t.co/r1bZotE5Cd pic.twitter.com/T3xhS8Fg9o
— Lightning Insider (@Erik_Erlendsson) September 26, 2023
“He’s been out a bit, then he’s been off,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said on Monday. “He’s wrestling with some things right now physically. It’s early in Training Camp so we don’t need to rush anything along with him. When he’s ready, he’ll be out there. We consider him day-to-day, I guess.
When asked if the injury was long term, Cooper said, “Not as of now, no.”
Vasilevskiy is coming off two consecutive seasons where he had 60 or more starts for the Lightning, getting the nod from Cooper in exactly 75 percent of the team’s games.
If Vasilevskiy returns at the beginning of December, he will have missed the first 24 games of Tampa Bay’s season.
Unless they make a trade, the Lightning will now turn to three unproven netminders on their depth chart in Jonas Johansson, Hugo Alnefelt, and Matt Tomkins. Johansson, 28, is the NHL-ready goaltender they have, a journeyman who’s made 35 NHL appearances over the last four seasons for three different teams — the Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche, and Florida Panthers. The Swedish Alnefelt, age 22, is a third-round pick of the Lightning from the 2019 NHL Draft, who played in 33 games and posted a .904 save percentage for the AHL Syracuse Crunch last season. Meanwhile, Tomkins, 29, was in the SHL last season suiting up for Färjestad BK.
Vasilevskiy’s absence could be devastating for a Lightning team that had the sixth best record in the Eastern Conference last season, finishing only six points ahead of the second wildcard team, the Florida Panthers (92). The Lightning are also dealing with a disgruntled Steven Stamkos, who was hoping to ink an extension over the summer but never had any talks with Lightning brass.
With Vasilevskiy’s current timeline, the Washington Capitals will not miss playing him as their first game of the season against Tampa Bay is on December 23 at Amalie Arena.
Vasilevskiy’s surgery was first reported by Kevin Weekes on X, the app formerly known as Twitter.
Headline photo: @andreivasilevskiy88/IG
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