Tampa Bay lost forward Nikita Kucherov in the first period of Game 5 on Saturday after he fell awkwardly into the goal post, but with everything on the line for the Lightning, he might be back for Game 6 Monday night.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper confirmed an earlier report that Kucherov traveled with the team to Chicago.
“He’s in considerably better shape today than he was last night,” Cooper added during Sunday’s press conference. “To be honest, I thought there was a chance he was coming back last night. But it didn’t work out. These two days will give him the rest he needs.”
Kucherov might participate in Monday’s skate, but his absence in it wouldn’t necessarily be cause for concern as the practice is optional. Cooper compared the situation to Bishop’s as the goaltender was unable to play on Wednesday and then missed Friday’s practice, but still returned on Saturday.
It would be a considerable blow if Kucherov isn’t able to play as the 21-year-old ranks second in the league with 22 points in 25 playoff games.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson won’t even celebrate his 24th birthday until July 17, but the amount of off-ice drama he’s had to endure might feel like more than a career’s worth. Since he made his debut on Oct. 9, 2010, the Coyotes have been in an almost constant state of uncertainty and just when it looked like they might finally be moving past that, the City of Glendale voted to terminate their lease agreement with the team, sparking a legal battle and a fresh wave of speculation about the franchise’s future.
“Not again,” Ekman-Larsson said, summing up his initial reaction to ESPN 1230’s Sebastian Noren on Today’s Slapshot. “We’ve been through so much the past couple of years, and now this happens. It’s disappointing and extremely frustrating that we have to go through something like this again.”
When asked if he feels unwelcome by the City of Glendale, he agreed, although that doesn’t mean that he’s ready to pack up and leave. He appreciates the support of the fans and hopes the team is able to stay in Glendale despite the City Council’s actions.
At the same time, he thinks it will be more difficult to attract free agents now given the instability that this latest fight has created. That’s potentially a big problem for Arizona as it might need to spend nearly $19 million (based on a $71 million cap) just to reach the floor.
The Vancouver Canucks have some decisions to make. Jacob Markstrom, who is coming off of a superb season in the AHL, is a restricted free agent while Eddie Lack has just a year left on his deal. Throw Ryan Miller into the mix and the Canucks have a bit of a logjam between the pipes.
It’s entirely possible, if not outright probable, that Vancouver will trade one of its netminders this summer, but Canucks GM Jim Benning has confirmed that Miller won’t be the one shipped off, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
Miller, who has two seasons left on his contract with an annual cap hit of $6 million, is coming off something of a rough season as he was plagued towards the end of the season with a knee injury. He finished the campaign with a 2.53 GAA and .911 save percentage in 45 contests.
Lack did a fine job filling in for him for the most part, posting a 2.45 GAA and .921 save percentage in 41 regular season games. Part of the reason why he might be moved, as Benning previously noted, is because he’s too good to risk losing on the free agent market. So if the Canucks don’t believe he fits into their long-term plans, then it might be better to trade him now while there’s likely a market for him thanks in part to his affordable $1.15 million cap hit for 2015-16.
That would leave Markstrom as Miller’s understudy. Markstrom struggled at the NHL level last season, but it’s hard to read much into that as he only got 78 minutes worth of ice time. In the minors he played a key role in the Utica Comets reaching the Calder Cup Final.
Vancouver is also looking to get a second-round selection in the upcoming draft as they gave theirs to Calgary. It’s possible that the Canucks might ultimately trade a goaltender for a pick, but they’re “also looking to make hockey trades,” per Benning, so there’s no guarantee that a pick will be involved.