If the Tampa Bay Lightning want to see Cedric Paquette in the lineup again this post-season, they may need to make it to the Stanley Cup finals.
In Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers, Paquette got in front of a Derick Brassard shot and ended up blocking it with his right hand. He immediately left the ice following the shot block and did not return to the game.
The concern about him slotting into Game 6 comes from Tuesday's optional morning skate, where Paquette took to the ice for only a few short minutes before leaving the ice, according to TVA's Renaud Lavoie.
Asked in the pre-game press conference about the status of the pesky center, Lightning Jon Cooper wasn't committing to saying one way or another whether or not Paquette would be out of the lineup for sure.
When asked if he had any idea if the center had left practice early, Cooper reiterated that he had "zero" idea about Paquette's status.
"You know, he's questionable in your terms," Cooper told media. "Very questionable."
Though he has only one goal this post-season -- and that tally came all the way back in Game 6 of Tampa Bay's first-round series against the Detroit Red Wings -- Paquette has been a mainstay in the Lightning lineup throughout the post-season. Losing him isn't akin to losing a star player like Steven Stamkos or even a skilled depth forward like Ondrej Palat, but without Paquette Tampa Bay will be forced to shuffle the deck.
There are a number of players that could be ready to slot in should Cooper need them. In Sunday's Game 5 alone, the Lightning had several healthy scratches watching from the sideline, including Jonathan Drouin, who has yet to play in the series, and Jonathan Marchessault, who skated in Game 1.
In the regular season, Paquette notched 12 goals and 19 points in 64 games while playing a primarily shut-down role for Cooper. Over the course of the season, only Brian Boyle, Brenden Morrow and Valtteri Filppula started a higher percentage of their 5-on-5 shifts in the defensive zone.