TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Whenever a Tampa Bay Lightning player is injured in a game, you can count on a series of question marks bouncing around that player and his status until, essentially, the start of the next game.
Jon Cooper, the head coach of the Lightning, is following that ritual in regards to Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov was hurt on his first shift in Game 6 against the New York Islanders and did not return to that game.
Cooper has been asked for an update on Kucherov twice and, in both instances, he stated, “No update.”
Kucherov has been the most productive Lightning player in this postseason. He recorded 27 points on five goals and 22 assists in less than 17 games. The next Lightning player on that list is Brayden Point, who has 20 points on 14 goals and six assists.
You cannot replace Kucherov and, thankfully, Cooper is not convinced the team will have to replace him in Game 7.
“Well, it is early to talk about that,” he said when he was asked what will change if Kucherov is not on the ice, “but I guess, if that scenario came about, we would have to count on the guy we bring into the lineup but other than that, every team in the league will tell you you lose players, you gain players, and your lineup changes all of the time.”
Anthony Cirelli filled the void left by Kucherov on Wednesday.
“Is it ideal when you are playing the final four and when you are playing against the best teams in the league not to have your full lineup? No,” said Cooper, “but it opens doors for guys and, you look at last night, the game Cirelli played, it was phenomenal.”
He recorded one goal and one assist in that game.
“You plug guys in and, like I said, this is not new for us,” explained Cooper.
The Lightning survived the entire regular season without the craftiness of Kucherov and, according to Cooper, they will adjust if they are forced to adjust to his absence.
“You move on,” stated Cooper, “and, if you are fortunate enough to win the game, it makes for one hell of a story.”