TAMPA — The Lightning and Nikita Kucherov both have a shot at milestones in Thursday’s game against Dallas. Well, they have a shot at the same milestone: 90 points.
With a win, the team will hit 90. Tampa Bay would be the eighth-fastest in league history to do so at 57 games. The Lightning would be tied for second-fastest in the last 30 years (the 2015-16 Capitals did so in 57, the 2008-09 Sharks and 1995-96 Red Wings in 58).
Kucherov needs two points to reach 90 on the season. With 25 multipoint games this season, that doesn’t seem like a stretch.
He would be the first player to reach the milestone in 58 games or fewer since Alex Ovechkin did it in 56 in 2009-10. The fastest player ever to 90 points was Wayne Gretzky in 1984-85; he needed just 31 games.
Kucherov had his first 100-point season last year. He’s on pace for 126 this year.
Dallas arrived in Tampa in a different situation than when the Stars last saw the Lightning. This time, they have won six of their past eight games.
"The one thing (coach Jim Montgomery) has instilled in them is a defensive mindset,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We were fortunate that we didn’t give any goals last time we played them, but we had to grind to get the two we did get. It was a struggle.”
Cooper went on to cite the offensive threats of Jamie Benn (39 points), Alexander Radulov (46) and Tyler Seguin (54). But with the Stars’ strong defense — ranked second in the league with 140 goals against — Dallas only needs a couple of goals a game.
Cooper only said “possibly,” but the morning skate indicates that Ondrej Palat will return to the lineup. He missed two games with an upper-body injury but was a full participant in the optional skate.
The coach did say Erik Cernak would not return to the lineup on Thursday but is expected back soon. Cernak later said he thinks he’ll be back for Saturday’s game against Montreal.
There were no line rushes with only 10 skaters in the optional skate. Ryan Callahan and Danick Martel were the last skaters out with Cernak and the likely healthy scratches.
Andrei Vasilevskiy is the likely starter in goal, given that Louis Domingue was also working with the scratches.