Nikita Kucherov questionable for tonight, Slater Koekkoek recalled
It's bad enough for the Lightning that top-pairing defenseman Anton Stralman is out indefinitely after fracturing his leg Friday night.
But Tampa Bay may also enter tonight's showdown for first place against the Panthers without one of its top scorers.
Wing Nikita Kucherov is questionable tonight after getting hurt blocking a shot in the third period Friday. He finished the game, but his status is in doubt tonight.
"It's hard to say," coach Jon Cooper said. "I would say I'm more worried about that right now, but I'm not, just because I'm uncertain."
Veterans Valtteri Filppula (upper body) and Ryan Callahan (lower body) participated in the optional morning skate, but aren't expected to play. Defenseman Slater Koekkoek was recalled from AHL Syracuse, so the Lightning could go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
It'd make sense, on a back to back, go use seven defensemen to parcel out the minutes in the absence of Stralman, who is out the rest of the regular season and likely at least the first round of the playoffs.
Cooper said since Stralman plays in every situation - including power play and penalty kill - it'll be an adjustment finding replacements in those areas, with everyone needing to step up.
"We're losing a top flight player at that position for however long, and naturally it's not ideal," Cooper said. "But it's not the end of the world. We're going to show up, we're going to battle. We've gone through this before. But the timing of it, that's the part that hurts the most, where it stings."
Defenseman Victor Hedman said he's willing to take on more responsibility, more minutes, while pointing out it'll be a group effort. He spoke with his good friend and fellow Swede Stralman the last two days.
"His spirits are good," Hedman said. "He's a calm Swedish guy. He's a very positive guy and I think that's going to help him."
More from today: G Andrei Vasilevskiy will start in net, Roberto Luongo for the Panthers.