Lightning defenseman Zach Bogosian expected to return tonight against Predators

NASHVILLE — When the Lightning take the ice tonight in Nashville, they should get a key addition to their blue line.

Right-shot defenseman Zach Bogosian is expected to make his season debut against the Predators, his first game since undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper anticipated Bogosian’s return, as well as that of right-shot defenseman Erik Cernak, who has missed the past three games, provided they got out of the pregame skate without any setbacks.

Bogosian would be back slightly earlier than anticipated. The team was eyeing a Thanksgiving return.

“It’s been a long journey back,” Bogosian said. “Anytime you’re not in the lineup, you’re always watching and wishing that you’re out there, the good and the bad. Obviously, we’re a tight group in here and you want to go through things together. So, just feels nice to kind of get integrated back into the group.”

Said Cooper, “(Bogosian) is a veteran presence. He’s been with us, he’s won with us. He knows his way around this league. He’s big, (has) size, can skate. It’s always those first games, you’ve got to get those out of the way. But I know he’s excited, and we are, too, to have him back.”

The Lightning placed defenseman Cal Foote on injured reserve, according to CapFriendly, opening a roster spot for Bogosian. Since that IR move can be backdated, Foote — who hasn’t played since taking a shot to the side of the head Nov. 11 in Washington — could return as soon as Monday.

Foote skated this morning, as did fellow right-shot defenseman Nick Perbix, who left Thursday’s game midway through the second period after blocking a shot. With the Lightning depleted on the right side without Cernak, Foote and Perbix for varying amounts of time, left-shot defenseman Ian Cole has filled in on the right side. Cole has played well but now will likely be able to return to his natural side.

“I think for us it’s what lineup’s going to help us win,” Cooper said. “To me, it’s more ideal that it’s righties-lefties just for the mere fact of breaking pucks out, the ease it puts on a defenseman. But if there’s guys that have played off-side and they’re used to it, there’s just different reads.

“Sometimes, pucks get chipped out more because they’re put in some vulnerable spots at times, and you just have to know that. Ideally, lefty-righty, but it’s not imperative or it’s a must that that has to happen.”

Rookie forward Cole Koepke, who also left Thursday’s game with an undisclosed injury, did not participate in the morning skate. That would seem to indicate that 13th forward Rudolfs Balcers, a recent waiver claim from the Panthers, will make his Lightning debut tonight on the fourth line.

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