Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov set to return from lower-body injury

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TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov is set to return Thursday night against Calgary after missing 32 games with a lower-body injury that required surgery.

Kucherov got hurt chasing a puck during the third period Oct. 16 at Washington. The high-scoring forward appeared to be injured in the groin-abdominal area.

“He’s ready to go,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after Thursday’s morning skate. “We expect him to play.”

Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos did not participate in the morning skate due to an undisclosed issue, with Cooper saying it will be a “game-time decision” if he plays against the Flames.

Kucherov sat out the abbreviated 2020-21 regular season following hip surgery, but he returned for the playoffs and had a league-leading 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists) in 23 games as the Lightning won their second consecutive Stanley Cup.

“We’re super excited about it,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “He just brings a different element to our game and is going to make us a lot better.”

Tampa Bay (22-8-5) entered Thursday with an NHL-best 49 points.