It appears as if the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to have to spend some more regular season time without the services of Nikita Kucherov.
The Lightning superstar forward was injured during Saturday’s overtime win against the Washington Capitals, appearing to injure himself during a collision with Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway.
On Monday, Lightning coach Jon Cooper announced that Kucherov is going to miss some significant time and that it is “definitely not a day-to-day thing.”
This will be the second year in a row that an injury is going to sideline Kucherov for an extended period of time. He missed the entire 2020-21 regular season after undergoing hip surgery. That injury allowed the Lightning to utilize the long-term injured list and add salary during the regular season and resulted in Tampa Bay playing in the playoffs with a roster that was well above the league’s salary cap when Kucherov returned (it got a lot of attention).
It is not yet known how much time Kucherov will have to miss this season.
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When healthy he is one of the most dominant offensive players in the league, averaging a 100-point pace per 82 games over the past four seasons he has played in. He also led the postseason in scoring in each of the past two seasons helping the Lightning win back-to-back Stanley Cups.
Tampa Bay has been off to a bit of a rocky start so far this season in its latest title defense. The Lightning have won two of their first three games, but they have not always looked great in the process. They were blown out in the season opener by a shorthanded Pittsburgh Penguins team, and then had to mount a furious third period rally against Detroit to steal a 7-6 win against the Red Wings in overtime. On Saturday they played probably their best overall game of the season in defeating the Capitals.
Even without Kucherov there is still more than enough talent here for the Lightning to win (as they showed a year ago) but they would still certainly rather have their top offensive player in the lineup.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.