Sunday, February 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Banged-up Kucherov sits out Lightning regular-season finale

MONTREAL — RW Nikita Kucherov was added to the list of the Lightning's walking wounded before Saturday's regular-season finale against the Canadiens.

Kucherov didn't play in the game for what the team dubbed "body maintenance," but he has been seen limping around and missed two games with a lower-body injury in late March after blocking a shot. Keep in mind that C Steven Stamkos missed a practice two weeks ago for what the team called "body maintenance" and a day later was declared out 1-3 months due to a blood clot.

Coach Jon Cooper said he wasn't concerned about Kucherov for Game 1 of the playoffs against the Red Wings, who Saturday clinched third place in the Atlantic Division, on Wednesday at Amalie Arena.

"There are guys that are banged up," Cooper said. "We don't play until Wednesday. … If you can get guys a little bit more rest, especially this time of year, to heal some wounds, then so be it. 'Kuch' is one of those guys."

D Victor Hedman, who missed the previous two games with an upper-body injury, skated again and said he felt well enough to play. But he and the team decided he should sit to make sure he would be 100 percent for the playoffs. "You don't to risk too much before the playoffs start," Hedman said.

RW Ryan Callahan (lower body) missed his third straight game and wasn't part of the morning skate. Though former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk indicated on a WDAE-AM 620 on Friday that Callahan's condition may involve offseason surgery, Cooper said, "Whoever is talking hasn't talked to me."

Cooper reiterated the hope is for Callahan to be ready for Game 1. "I haven't been told otherwise," he said.

Playoff schedule: The full schedule for the series with Detroit will be released today.

DROUIN IT: RW Jonathan Drouin couldn't have drawn up his return to the Lightning any better. He scored the winning goal in his first game Thursday against the Devils, then came home to Montreal for Saturday's finale. "It was a nice scenario," he said. "It's definitely cool." After getting all the emotions — and hoopla — out of the way Thursday, Drouin felt more comfortable Saturday. Cooper sensed a more engaged, louder Drouin on the bench Thursday. "You can see he's getting more confidence in himself," Cooper said. "And when you get a confident player, especially of his talent level, it can be pretty fun to watch."

LINING UP: With Kucherov out, the lines got shuffled, with RW Jonathan Marchessault returning to the lineup and taking Kucherov's spot with C Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat before Johnson left the game injured in the first period. Drouin started with LW Alex Killorn and RW Valtteri Filppula. C Vladislav Namestnikov was moved down to the third line with Cedric Paquette and J.T. Brown. … G Andrei Vasilevskiy started. … G Ben Bishop (@benbishop30) is hosting a Twitter Q&A at 2 p.m. today. Use #AskBish.

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