(Brandon) Jon Cooper was clear in acknowledging that the Tampa Bay Lightning will be deprived of a “luxury” with the absence of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy for the first two months of the season. However, he is confident that his team can face this challenge successfully.

“Let’s be honest, we’re here and we’re trying to make the situation a little rosier,” Cooper said Friday. It’s not ideal, there’s no doubt about it. “Vasy” is an important part of our team, but we have other players in the organization. They are looking for a chance. There she is. »

Vasilevskiy, 29, underwent a microdiscectomy on Thursday to treat a herniated lumbar disc. The recovery could leave him sidelined for 25 games or more.

Should the Lightning choose to stay in their organization to fill the void in net, they have three goalies under contract.

Tampa Bay signed Jonas Johansson, who had an 11-13-4 record in four seasons in the NHL, to a two-year contract to serve as Vasilevskiy’s assistant.

Matt Tomkins, Canada’s starter for the 2022 Winter Olympics, who has never played in the NHL, spent the last two seasons in Sweden and got off to a good start in the preseason against the Nashville Predators . Hugo Alnefelt, 22, was part of the Syracuse Crunch, the Lightning’s farm club in the American Hockey League, last year.

The Lightning were eliminated in the first round by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the last playoffs, after three consecutive appearances in the Stanley Cup final.

Vasilevskiy won the Vezina Trophy in 2019, given to the best goaltender in the NHL, and the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2021, as the playoffs’ most valuable player.

“Guys are going to have to take their game up a notch,” said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. This team has always handled adversity pretty well regarding injuries and other guys have answered the call. We’ll just have to hold down the fort until “Big Cat” is back. »

No one played more hockey, from August 2020 until the end of last season’s playoffs, than Vasilevskiy. He was on the ice for just over 14,769 minutes.

“I want everyone to be clear about this, this is not the end of the season of ‘Vasy,’” Cooper insisted. He will be back. And I hope knowing him, it will be sooner rather than later. He will be a rested goalkeeper. »