Bolts could be without Kucherov for huge clash with Panthers

Associated Press

The Lightning may have won yesterday’s game against the Islanders, but at what cost? Top pairing defenseman Anton Stralman will miss the remainder of the regular season with a non-displaced fracture of his left fibula and Nikita Kucherov was hurt after blocking a shot.

Kucherov was able to finish the game, but head coach Jon Cooper admitted that there’s a chance he won’t be able to play in Saturday’s huge game against the Florida Panthers.

“It’s hard to say,” coach Jon Cooper said. “I would say I’m more worried about that right now, but I’m not, just because I’m uncertain.”

Tampa Bay is already without Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan.

Hours before puck drop, the Lightning recalled defenseman Slater Koekkoek and forward Joel Vermin from the minors. Koekkoek was likely recalled to take Stralman’s spot on the roster, but Vermin’s arrival could mean that Kucherov won’t play tonight.

Replacing Stralman won’t be easy. The Bolts could opt to dress 11 forwards and seven defeseman tonight. They’ll need everyone to step up because Stralman plays big minutes at 5-on-5, on the PK and on the PP.

“We’re losing a top flight player at that position for however long, and naturally it’s not ideal,” Cooper said. “But it’s not the end of the world. We’re going to show up, we’re going to battle. We’ve gone through this before. But the timing of it, that’s the part that hurts the most, where it stings.”

The winner of tonight’s game will take over top spot in the Atlantic Division.