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Petr Mrazek was assigned to Chicago of the American Hockey League for a conditioning stint Thursday.
Mrazek will start against Grand Rapids at 3 p.m. ET and the Hurricanes want to see how the goalie performs before they determine when he’ll return to the NHL. He will fly back to North Carolina with the Hurricanes after their game against the Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSCH).
“It kind of lined up perfectly, so it was kind of an easy decision,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
“We just want to take it day by day here. Obviously with him being out as long as he has, it would be tough to say, ‘Hey let’s throw you into an NHL game, not knowing how you feel’ because obviously there’s still a question mark in his mind. So hopefully this alleviates all that. No pressure on the result. Just get in there, feel comfortable and then we’ll see what he says after the game, where he feels he’s at. But we’ll make decisions after that.”
Mrazek has missed 29 games following right thumb surgery Feb. 3. He’s 2-1-0 with a 0.99 goals-against average, .955 save percentage and two shutouts this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Ryan McDonagh could return against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; BSSUN, BSOH, NHL.TV).
The defenseman has missed the past four games with a lower-body injury.
“[We’re] hopeful [McDonagh] will be back, so it’s looking good,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “[The lineup] is all going to hedge on McDonagh and there’s a trickle-down effect after that. So again, we’ll have to see.”
McDonagh was a limited participant Tuesday before taking part in a full practice Wednesday, which included work on the penalty kill. He has scored eight points (two goals, six assists) in 31 games, ranks third on the Lightning in ice time per game (21:58) and first in shorthanded ice time per game (3:09).
Defensemen Jan Rutta, who has missed three games with a lower-body injury, and Erik Cernak, who sustained a lower-body injury in a 3-1 loss to the Blue Jackets on Tuesday, aren’t close to returning.
“No timeline,” Cooper said of Rutta. “He is being evaluated today, so we should find out more.” — Corey Long