Cernak was injured blocking a shot in Tuesday's Game 1 — that may have saved a goal — and was unable to finish the game. However, he was a full participant in practice Wednesday and head coach Jon Cooper said he expects Cernak to play Thursday.
Cernak was a staple on the Lightning blue line in their last two runs to the Stanley Cup. These playoffs, he has played in every game thus far, averaging 21:38 in ice-time through the first seven games — fourth among Tampa Bay's defence corps.
While the return of Cernak is good news, Cooper added that Brayden Point will remain out for Game 2. Point injured his leg during Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs and hasn't taken the ice since.
Game 2 between the Lightning and Panthers takes place Thursday at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and SN NOW.