Kucherov will make NHL debut tonight vs. Rangers
The biggest news today was Lightning star center Steven Stamkos walking around without crutches or a boot, just two weeks removed from breaking his leg.
Stamkos still is unsure when and if he'll be back this season, but he definitely brought a morale boost - and as Marty St. Louis says "a lot of smiles" - in the dressing room.
With Stamkos out, wing Nikita Kucherov was called up from AHL Syracuse to help provide a much-needed offensive spark.
Kucherov, a 20-year-old Russian, led the Crunch with 13 goals and 24 points in 17 games this season. Coach Jon Cooper said while Kucherov's call-up this early isn't "ideal," the rookie earned his stripes quicker than other guys. And Kucherov will be thrown right into the fire, making his NHL debut tonight against the Rangers on a line with Teddy Purcell and Alex Killorn.
"He's another young gun," Cooper said. "He's one of these guys that has that uncanny ability to put the puck in the net...It's like the Brett Hulls, they know where to go on the ice, and they know what to do with the puck. And there's guys that puck doesn't have eyes for, and there's puck has eyes for, and it has eyes when he has it."
Kucherov, a 5-foot-11, 178-pound forward, was the Lightning's second-round pick in the 2011 draft. Crunch Julien BriseBois said Kucherov has some of the best vision he's ever seen, and can make skill players' better.
Kucherov admitted he was a little surprised when he got the call so soon, but is "excited" for his first game. He said a key has been how he's improved his play on the defensive side of his game.
Cooper said it's uncertain how long Kucherov will stay up, likely depending on a number of factors. But one thing is for sure.
"The kid can play," he said.
Other stuff from the morning skate: G Ben Bishop is going to start in net, and is 3-0 against the Rangers with a 1.26 goals against average...Cooper said D Radko Gudas and Ryan Malone are out tonight, but could be back by the end of the week... Marty St. Louis will be honored before tonight's game for having played his 1,000th game last week on the road...Former Lightning star Brad Richards, now with the Rangers, said he's thrilled it worked out to where he could be here in Tampa when they honor St. Louis, a close friend."I still talk to him pretty much weekly on the game and the things we're doing, whether ti's stick length to how the game is played," Richards said. "We still pick each other's brains. He's helped me a lot, still look up to him and love how he competes. He's a good inspiration to me."