Nikita Kucherov feeling 'much better,' unsure on return
It was an encouraging sight for the Lightning with wing Nikita Kucherov popping out on the ice near the end of Saturday's morning skate.
Kucherov, who suffered an upper-body injury in Thursday's 3-1 loss in Montreal, had a red no-contact jersey on, but is feeling better. But he said he was able to everything on the ice, including shooting and stickhandling, in a post-skate workout with wing Ryan Callahan.
"He looked good," Callahan said. "Really good, actually."
Kucherov won't play Saturday against the Devils, and it's still a question whether he'll be able to return by the time this six-game, 11-day road trip ends Tuesday in Brooklyn against the Islanders.
"Could is the word. Can he? I'm not so sure," coach Jon Cooper said. "But I know he's feeling much better today... It's not a good situation, but let's just hope it's only a couple games or maybe one game."
Kucherov suffered what is believed to be a shoulder-area injury in the first period Thursday, losing his edge and sliding into the boards. Though Kucherov didn't play the final two periods, he didn't worry about it being a long-term injury, officially listed as day-to-day.
"I got hurt, all my thoughts were get back as fast as possible and help my team win," Kucherov said.
HIS TURN: When forward Cory Conacher was one of the final cuts in training camp, and had to clear waivers, he insisted, "I'm not done yet."
Turns out, he was right. With Kucherov's injury, Conacher was recalled Friday, and is expected to be in the lineup tonight against the Devils, playing on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Brayden Point. Conacher, who re-signed in the summer, will be in his first NHL game since Dec. 4, 2014.
"Whether it's for one game, 10 games, I've got to play every game like it might be my last one up here," Conacher said.
Conacher wasn't overly impressive in the preseason, but got off to a strong start with the Crunch, five points in his first four games. "I'm pretty confident with the puck, I was skating well down there, finding ways to get open," he said.
And that skill set is what the Lightning needs without Kucherov.
"We signed Cory for a reason, for situations like this," Cooper said. "One thing that kid does is he competes really hard, skates and shoots the puck. With a guy like Kucherov out of the lineup, you need someone to fill his shoes. And hopefully he can do it."
NUTS AND BOLTS: Though Cooper quipped it'd be an "ideal situation" for Callahan, the former Rangers captain, to make his season debut Sunday at Madison Square Garden, it's not certain he will. Callahan said he's getting closer, unsure what game he'll be back. "I'm pretty much back to normal now," Callahan said.... G Andrei Vasilevskiy will start tonight, with G Ben Bishop expected to start Sunday against the Rangers.. D Matt Taormina is slated to be a healthy scratch again.