The Lightning's top draft pick, defenseman Victor Hedman, has been sensational all season. Teamed with fellow Swede Mattais Ohlund, the hulking Hedman leads all NHL rookies in ice time. He is also averaging 24 minutes a game, is a plus one in plus/minus, and has four points.
The 18 year old learned a tough lesson Thursday night in Ottawa, when notorious cheap shot artist Chris Neil took a run at him behind the Lightning goal in Tampa Bay's 3-2 overtime loss to the Senators.
It was a lesson delivered with force, as Hedman crumbled to the ice from the hit, sparking teammate Steve Downie to charge Neil. Neil proceeded to beat down Downie as well.
The rookie got it, telling Tampa media that he needs to make quicker decisions and keep his head up.
The Lightning are using the upper body injury on the injury report but some believe that Hedman may have suffered a slight concussion.
The Lightning don't want to rush their budding anchor on the blue line back into the line-up too soon.
"You have to be very careful," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet told the St. Pete Times about of concussions. "You have to be sure. Lucky that's his first one. Hopefully, it's mild."
Hedman, to his credit, has said he believes the hit was a legal one but some of his teammates disagree.
"(Neil's) not the cleanest player," Downie told the Tampa Tribune . "He's the one preaching about dirtiness after every time you fight him, calling players gutless and it's the same thing when he does things like that. He called me gutless after he got me in the preseason, but he's got to look in the mirror."
"For me, I didn't like the hit and there should be some kind of repercussions, and that's up to the league, that's their job," the center Zenon Konopka added.
"Obviously this is like a brother to me, and we're upset that this kid puts his heart on the line every night, and protects himself, too, and it's a big loss for us. We feel in our hearts, not just on the ice."
"It was a clean hit," Neil told the Tampa Tribune . "I was just coming in to take the boards away, I had a good jump. I think (Hedman) bobbled the puck at the last second and he didn't see me coming. I got my shoulder right into his chest and he's like eight feet tall (6'6") so it's not like I could hit him in the head."
Hedman has already been ruled out of Saturday night's game against Montreal and may miss a few more games.
One thing is certain—if Hedman can remember it, it won't be a hit he'll soon forget.