No update on Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov, Game 7 status unclear

Lightning coach Jon Cooper shared no details on the status of injured Tampa Bay right wing Nikita Kucherov, leaving his status uncertain for Game 7 against the New York Islanders.

“No update,” Cooper said Thursday.

Kucherov, the team’s leading postseason scorer, exited Game 6 after 46 seconds of ice time on Wednesday night. He was cross-checked by Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield, though no penalty was called.

Kucherov subsequently checked New York’s Mathew Barzal before leaving the game favoring his right arm or shoulder.

The Islanders went on to win 3-2 in overtime at Uniondale, N.Y., forcing a Game 7 in the semifinal series on Friday in Tampa.

Kucherov unlikely for Game 7?

Cooper sounded as if he’s preparing for the defending Stanley Cup champions to take the ice without Kucherov.

“If that scenario came about we have to count on the guy we bring into the lineup,” Cooper said. “But other than that every team in the League will tell you: you lose players, you gain players, your lineup changes all the time. Is it ideal when you’re playing in the final four, when you’re playing against the best teams in the League, not to have your full lineup? No, but it opens doors for guys. Look at last night. The game (forward Anthony) Cirelli played, it was phenomenal. You just plug guys in. This isn’t new for us and you move on. If you’re fortunate enough to win the game it makes for one hell of a story.”

Nikita Kucherov injury
Jun 19, 2021; Uniondale, New York, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock (6) and Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) battle for a loose puck during the third period of game four of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Kucherov, 28, missed the entire regular season following hip surgery, then returned for the start of the postseason and was back at the form he flashed while winning the Hart Trophy (MVP) and Ross Trophy (points leader) in 2018-19.

“We played 56 games without him,” Cooper said Wednesday. “Usually we have 12 forwards when we play without him, so that probably made it tougher on us when we had 11. But we’ve gone down this path for four months. It’s nothing new for us.”

Through 17 playoff games this season, Kucherov has a league-high 22 assists and a league-best 27 points.

“There’s no replacing Kuch,” Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos said. “He’s had an unbelievable playoffs for us. He’s so lethal out there offensively.”

Cooper, alluding to Kucherov’s regular-season-long absence, said postgame, “We’ve been down this path for four months. We won games with him and we won them without him.”

–Field Level Media