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Lightning’s Tanner Jeannot has been practicing. When will he return?

TAMPA — Tanner Jeannot has returned to the ice for practices, and from the extent of his participation it appears nothing is physically holding him back from getting into game action.

But the Lightning continue to slow-play the forward as he works his way back from a lower-body injury that has sidelined him for most of the past two months.

Head coach Jon Cooper said Wednesday that Jeannot won’t play this week — Tampa Bay hosts Calgary Thursday and Philadelphia Saturday — and estimated a return no earlier than March 14 against the Rangers.

Jeannot, acquired from Nashville before last season’s trade deadline for five draft picks and defenseman Cal Foote, has missed 21 of the past 22 games, including the last nine.

“Been taking it slowly and gradually getting better,” Jeannot said Tuesday. “Slower than I want it to be. But it’s been tough just sitting on the sidelines watching all the guys out there work as hard as they can to get those wins But we’re getting there. The training staff’s really helped me out, and hopefully it’s not too much longer.”

Jeannot was first injured Jan. 6 in Boston, playing less than six minutes before suffering an upper-body injury in the second period of a 7-3 loss to the Bruins. He missed the next 12 games, then returned Feb. 13 at Boston. He exited Tampa Bay’s 3-2 win with another lower-body injury after playing just 5:44.

Jeannot has been practicing for about the past week, at times filling in for injured players or those on body-maintenance days. Tuesday, he skated on the first line as Steven Stamkos had a body-maintenance day.

With the Lightning playing just four games over a two-week stretch, Jeannot said the extra practice time helps him get his speed and pace back and test out his physicality.

“We’re just trying not to rush anything and make sure that it’s fully 100%,” he said. “We’re just taking it day by day. ... Just see how it feels (in practice) keeping up to the pace and the physicality. Hopefully, it’s not too much more.”

Despite playing in only 42 of the Lightning’s 63 games this season, Jeannot leads the team with 164 hits. He has six goals and six assists and is minus-12. Before his first injury, he had started to see time on the second-team power-play unit in the net-front position.

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