Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's Kucherov says he's feeling better, works out on ice

NEWARK, N.J. — It was a welcomed sight for the Lightning when RW Nikita Kucherov popped 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, was wearing a red no-contact jersey but said he was feeling better. He said he was able to handle 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 didn't play Saturday against the Devils, and it wasn't know if he would be able to return by the time this six-game, 11-day trip ends Tuesday in Brooklyn, N.Y., against the Islanders.

"Can he (return on the trip)? I'm not so sure," coach Jon Cooper said. "But I know he's feeling much better (Saturday). … Let's just hope it's only a couple games, or maybe one game (Kucherov misses)."

Kucherov suffered what is believed to be a shoulder-area injury in the first period Thursday when he lost his skate edge and slid into the boards. Though Kucherov didn't play the final two periods, he said he didn't worry about the injury being long term. He is officially listed as day-to-day.

"All my thoughts were get back as fast as possible and help my team win," Kucherov said.

HIS TURN: When F 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 from AHL Syracuse on Friday and played Saturday, starting on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Brayden Point. For Conacher, who returned to the Lightning in the summer, it was his first NHL game since Dec. 4, 2014. He played 13:26, had one shot and was minus-1 in the 3-1 loss.

"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 got off to a strong start with the Crunch, getting 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. " With a guy like Kucherov out of the lineup, you need someone to fill his shoes. And hopefully (Conacher) can do it."

NUTS AND BOLTS: Though Cooper quipped it'd be an "ideal situation" for Callahan, a former Rangers captain, to make his season debut today against his former team at Madison Square Garden, it wasn't certain if he would. Callahan, who hasn't played this season while recovering from June hip surgery, said he's getting closer to returning. "I'm pretty much back to normal now," he said. … G Andrei Vasilevskiy started Saturday, with Ben Bishop expected to start today. … D Matt Taormina was a healthy scratch again.

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