Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Kucherov on a roll for Lightning

SUNRISE — F Nikita Kucherov's scoring binge began 3 minutes, 21 seconds into the Lightning's victory Nov. 1 against the Islanders when he scored his first of two goals that night. It ended late in Saturday's win against New Jersey when he outskated the Devils defense and beat goalie Cory Schneider with a backhand shot.

All told, Kucherov scored three goals and assisted on four others in three games for a seven-point total that earned him the NHL's First Star of the Week.

Kucherov entered Monday's game against the Panthers with an NHL-high 11 assists and third in scoring with 15 points.

For coach Jon Cooper, Kucherov's play was just a reminder of why is one of the emerging stars in the league.

"He just can make plays at a really high rate of speed," Cooper said after Monday's morning skate, "but the one thing for him is has the ability to make other guys better. If you look at his goal-to-assist ratio, usually he's got a few more goals and a few less assists, but he's really helping his teammates out.

"Pucks are going to go in for him. We just keep telling him he's got to shot the puck, be more selfish, because when he shoots, the puck has eyes."

DROUIN UPDATE: F Jonathan Drouin's status has been listed as day to day since taking a hit to the head Nov. 1 against the Islanders, but Cooper indicated Monday that might not be the case. When asked if recalling F Cory Conacher meant Drouin is not close to returning, Cooper said, "I don't know necessarily about where Jo's timetable is. We're hoping very soon he'll be back." Drouin missed his third game Monday.

FILPPULA OUT: F Valtteri Filppula was not in Monday's lineup because of a lower body injury. Cooper said after the morning skate that Conacher rejoined the team to provide depth because several forwards are not 100 percent. "We've got guys that are on the cusp of maybe playing maybe not," Cooper said. "I think we should be in decent shape (Monday), but just in case. We have limited numbers, so if guys aren't ready to go he'll be in." Conacher was not in the lineup. D Nikita Nesterov, a healthy scratch in the previous three games, was in the lineup as Cooper went with seven defensemen and 11 forwards for the first time this season.

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