Several times a week, Elisabeth Hedman wakes up at 1:30 a.m., watches her son play hockey on TV and then heads back to bed for a couple of hours of sleep before heading off to teach kindergarten.
Such is the life of a hockey mom who lives in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, while her son, Victor, plays defence for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But when Ms. Hedman tuned in on Tuesday, she was more than a little nervous. Hedman was making his return to the Lightning line up after missing 13 games because of a concussion.
"My mom told me she was little nervous she doesn't want me to get hurt," Hedman said Wednesday after the Lightning practised. "You can understand what she's like."
Ms. Hedman didn't have to worry. Hedman played more than 18 minutes in the Lightning's 4-3 overtime win against the Washington Capitals Tuesday, blocking two shots and delivering three hits.
"My timing was off a little bit in some situations but I think overall I think it was a good game and I'm really happy to play," said Hedman who was averaging more than 22 minutes a game before the injury.
His return gives Tampa Bay some badly needed size (Hedman is listed at 6-6 and 229) and mobility at the blue line, said coach Guy Boucher. "We need size out there and he's got size. We need mobility, he's mobile."
Boucher had planned to ease Hedman back into action slowly, but he threw that out the window when he saw him play.
"We gave him ice time because we saw right he was looking pretty good," said Boucher. He added that Hedman's game was better than he expected. "Those top players have a tendency to surprise you pretty quick."
Hedman was one of four injured players returning to Tampa Bay's line up, the others are Ryan Shannon, J.T. Wyman and Tom Pyatt. Two more, forward Ryan Malone and defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron, could also be back soon.
All of which should give Tampa Bay a boost, especially since the team is rapidly finding its way back into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning, who take on the Winnipeg Jets Thursday, have won five straight games and have 48 points. That puts them in 11th place, four points behind Winnipeg and eight points back of Toronto, which is currently in eighth place. Tampa Bay also has a favourable schedule to finish the season with 29 out of its remaining 43 games at home.
Boucher said the Lightning players have overcome adversities, poor play and bad luck which has made the team stronger.
"Once you have success in certain circumstances, when you meet those circumstances again afterward, you know you've been through them," he said. "It has been different lately. That's why we've had different results because our attitude is different."