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Lightning’s Anthony Cirelli returns to the ice after hit to the head

By Eduardo A. Encina,

Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71) tries to gain control of the puck while Jets center Mark Scheifele (55) puts pressure on him during the first period of Sunday's game in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

NEWARK, N.J. — Lightning center Anthony Cirelli was back on the ice Tuesday morning for the team’s optional morning skate and appeared ready to return to the lineup. He was knocked out of Sunday’s loss to Winnipeg by an illegal hit to the head.

In the second period of that 3-2 loss to the Jets, Cirelli turned around to pursue a puck when Winnipeg forward Mark Scheifele’s left elbow ran into Cirelli’s head, knocking him to the ground. Cirelli left the ice under his own power, but he missed the final 5:40 of the second period and the entire third. The hit came after Cirelli scored a shorthanded goal to cut the Winnipeg lead to one.

Cirelli was a full participant in the Lightning’s morning skate at the Prudential Center on Tuesday morning. The skate was optional for players to report, and because only 11 players skated, it didn’t run like a normal pregame skate, but Cirelli appeared to participate in all the drills.

He took a few extra shots with assistant coach Jeff Halpern but left shortly after the rest of the players who are expected to play against the Devils.

Defensemen Zach Bogosian and Haydn Fleury and goaltender Brian Elliott were the last players on the ice, so they are the likely scratches. There was no forward in that extra work group, so Cirelli could conceivably still be a game-time decision. Lightning coach Jon Cooper was not available.

The Lightning have had a recent string of injuries to key players. Not only did Cirelli, the team’s top two-way center, exit Sunday’s game, but captain Steven Stamkos was forced from Saturday’s game with a left knee injury. He returned on Sunday. Defenseman Victor Hedman missed two games last week with an apparent lower back injury.

Center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare had been scratched for four straight games with a lower body injury and five of the last six, but skated Tuesday morning.

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