Tampa Bay Lightning getting more power as Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov close to return

carolina hurricanes versus tampa bay lightning
Feb 6, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) is congratulated by right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) as he scores a goal on Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (30) during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning will look to be at full power when the playoffs begin Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are close to returning. Today, both players were on the ice again for the morning skate. “The goal has always been to be ready come the playoffs,” Stamkos said afterwards. “Everything has been trending in that direction so that’s exciting.”

Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov close to return

Considering just how good the Lightning are without them, it has to be a scary proposition for the teams in the Central Division come postseason. Stamkos has been out since April 8th with a lower-body injury and Kucherov has been out all season after surgery.

“‘Kuch’ and I are really close,” Stamkos said, “and anytime you can have a rehab buddy it makes things a lot easier just from a mental standpoint too, you have someone to bounce things off of behind the scenes. We’re always together doing work, whether it’s before practice and before [the media] see us, we’re out there working hard. During the games we’re either in the gym or getting some treatment.”

NHL.com

Lightning a contender to win it all again

steven stamkos nikita kucherov
Feb 22, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) is congratulated by his teammates after his second period goal against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot to like about the defending Stanley Cup Champions. The Tampa Bay Lighting used LTIR better than the Leafs did to acquire David Savard from the Blue Jackets and strengthen their blue-line.

Strengths: They have the Stanley Cup experience and pedigree on their side. They boast one of the game’s best defensemen in Victor Hedman and the best goalie in the world with Andrei Vasilevskiy. This team can also roll four lines better than anyone. Some (like MoneyPuck) may have Central rivals like the Hurricanes and Panthers ahead of them to make it out, but i just don’t see it.

Weakness: I seriously tried hard to find some. They simply don’t have many. If I had to pick something I would say health. Should Stamkos AND Kucherov not be fully healthy or unable to play, the Lightning could be beat.

Odd & Predictions: Odds Sharks have the Lightning at +700 (5th best) and Money Puck has the likelihood of them winning the Cup at 3.6% (10th best).