Kucherov announces bad news for Lightning opponents

Published May 14, 2021 at 9:15 PM

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are scheduled to begin this weekend, and the Tampa Bay Lightning will face their in-state rival Florida Panthers in Round 1 for the first time in NHL history. It'll be the first time the two division rivals have played in a postseason game.

And the Lightning, who will be looking to repeat as Stanley Cup champions for the first time since 1998, will be getting the most important piece of their already lethal offensive attack back just in time.

Nikita Kucherov is expected to return to the lineup in time for Sunday's series opener after missing the entire regular season due to hip surgery on December 29.

For Kucherov, last season's playoffs that resulted in Tampa Bay's first Stanley Cup win since 2004 wasn't the most comfortable experience. He suffered a pulled groin muscle that would eventually turn into a hip injury.

«It is what it is,» Kucherov said Friday. «I feel really good. better than before.»

If he was able to tally 34 points during Tampa's run last season and now feels even better than that, the rest of the NHL should certainly be on notice.

«He makes plays on the power play that no one else really sees, and it's so hard to play against that when you go on the PK against him,» Lightning forward Yanni Gourde said. «He is so deceptive and it's so, so hard to read, and he's making those plays and making the right reads. He's making the right plays, so it's fun to watch. It's fun to have him back on the ice with us.»

Though he hasn't officially been put into the lineup by head coach Jon Cooper, he's been practicing regularly with the team, and is expected to be ready in time for Sunday.

"We'll see what's going to happen the next few days if I'm ready,» Kucherov said. «I'm really excited and I'm looking forward to play a game, and hopefully that's going to be Sunday.»

«I don't think he's played a game in eight months, and there's something to be said for that,» Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. «You know the body's rested, but he's still coming off an injury that we weren't sure we would be getting him back in the first round. So he's got to get his timing, and there's going to be parts of the game that will probably frustrate him because he knows in his head he can make a play, but because you haven't played, you've got to catch up to the game.

Credit: HockeyFeed
May 14   |   140 answers
Kucherov announces bad news for Lightning opponents

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