Just like Joe Pavelski, there is more injury news throughout the playoffs. Not one but two Lightning defensemen are down with injury. After suffering a bad hit by Michael Bunting, Erik Cernak left the game. He did not return and is now out for Game Two. Cernak is a core part of the blueline and his impact will be missed.
TB head coach Jon Cooper says Erik Cernak and Michael Eysimmont will not play Game 2. Victor Hedman is a game-time decision and Tanner Jeannot is a possibility
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) April 19, 2023
Erik Cernak Out With Injury
Michael Bunting has received a 5-minute match penalty for an illegal check to the head on Erik Cernak. pic.twitter.com/aY8TnNZgWl
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 19, 2023
In what turned out to be a whooping put on by the Lightning, it came at a price. After coming back into the game, Bunting caught Cernak with a dirty hit to the head. Bunting would not return to the game and was ejected. It will remain to be seen if Bunting will receive further discipline. This is not the first time that a Leafs player has done something of this nature. That put Toronto in a deep hole and the Lightning made them pay on the scoreboard. In addition, Tampa also lost Victor Hedman. His status is to be determined.
The loss of Erik Cernak is huge. This is a big blow for the Lightning. Despite the scoreboard, it is a long series and it is only one game. Being down one defenseman is bad, but two is even worse. Cernak is a big physical defenseman that logs big minutes. His presence on the back end is huge and is key to limiting the skill guys of the Leafs. With him out of the lineup, Mikhail Sergachev will he relied on heavily in their absence. In the regular season, he put up 64 points. His presence in both ends of the ice is huge and will be something to monitor as the series goes on. This is a huge loss for the beasts of the east in what will be a long series.
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