The Lightning feared the worst with Victor Hedman's lower-body injury, hoping and praying the All-Star wouldn't be out long-term.
So Tampa Bay fans can have a collective sigh of relief Friday to find out Hedman is out 3-6 weeks.
This could have been much, much worse.
It still hurts Tampa Bay (31-10-3), which will be without its top defenseman for the next month to two months. The good thing is that one of those weeks is this five-day bye week, with the Lightning next playing Thursday against Vegas.
Even at the longer end of this prognosis, Hedman is back by March with a full month to get ready for the playoffs.
It didn't look good Thursday when Hedman's left knee buckled in a knee-to-knee collision with Flames wing Garnet Hathaway. Hedman couldn't put any pressure on his left leg, having to get helped into the dressing room. He underwent tests today.
Hedman's absence will likely increase the role of rookie Mikhail Sergachev, who moved up to the top pairing last night with partner Anton Stralman. Sergachev took Hedman's spot on the top power play unit Thursday and looked good.
The Lightning was already likely looking to bolster its blueline by the late February trade deadline. But at least it doesn't have to worry about replacing Hedman.
Tampa Bay has been through this before. When Hedman missed a month with a broken finger in the 2014-15 season, the Lightning went 12-5-1 in his absence, later reaching the Stanley Cup Final.
The Lightning does have seven defensemen on its current roster, but could look to make a depth callup from AHL Syracuse after the break.
The sad part for Hedman is that this means he'll have to miss the Jan. 28 All-Star Game in Tampa, which he was so pumped to attend.