NEW YORK — Nikita Kucherov left the Bell Centre on Thursday night looking a lot like he did when he arrived.
He had no noticeable limp, no brace tucked over his suit. Asked if he was okay, he politely nodded.
On Friday it looked like the Lightning had caught a break. Kucherov was considered just day-to-day with an upper-body injury suffered in Thursday's 3-1 loss to the Canadiens. With the star wing's status for tonight's game with the Devils uncertain, Tampa Bay recalled forward Cory Conacher from AHL Syracuse.
The news about Kucherov could have been a lot worse for the Lightning, which was concerned Thursday after he was unable to play the final two periods.
The Lightning hasn't given specifics about the injury, which is believed to be in the shoulder area, but coach Jon Cooper did say Thursday that Kucherov didn't have a concussion.
No matter how long Kucherov is out, the Lightning remains confident it can find a way to be successful.
"It's never fun to see guys not finishing games," defenseman Victor Hedman said. "We'll see what the status is. Guys have an opportunity to step up and play more minutes. We've been through this before. That's what we've been known for the last few years: Guys step up when other guys do down."
Sure, losing the team's leading scorer from last season is a blow. Kucherov had seven points in his first six games, including scoring his first goal in Tuesday's 7-3 win in Toronto, a game in which he had a career-high four points. "He's one of our best players," wing Alex Killorn said.
But the Lightning managed to advance two playoff rounds last season without captain Steven Stamkos (blood clot) and top-pairing defenseman Anton Stralman (broken leg). It nearly won the Eastern Conference final without team MVP goalie Ben Bishop.
Tampa Bay has also been deep up front this season, with every forward but J.T. Brown and Brayden Point scoring at least one goal through the first seven games. Bringing in Conacher should help. Conacher, who cleared waivers after being one of the last cuts in training camp, had two goals and five points in his first four games with the Crunch. Conacher, in his second stint with the Lightning, could play Saturday in his first NHL game since Dec. 4, 2014, with the Islanders.
The Lightning is also expected to get a boost soon as wing Ryan Callahan nears his return from June hip surgery. He could make his season debut by the end of this six-game road trip, which ends Tuesday.
With Kucherov out, Point, a pleasant surprise as a rookie, might see a bigger role. He developed chemistry with Killorn and center Tyler Johnson during the preseason, so that could make for a strong second line.
It remained unclear how Kucherov got hurt. He took a nasty spill into the boards after losing an edge with six minutes to go in the first period. Kucherov's left shoulder absorbed most of the impact, and though he played the rest of the period, he didn't return to the game after intermission.
"That may have contributed to it," Cooper said of the play. "Something got hit the wrong way; something aggravated that for sure. I don't know."
At least the Lightning knows Kucherov won't be out long term.
First Period—None. Penalties—Namestnikov, TB, (hooking), 2:23.
Second Period—1, Tampa Bay, Killorn 6 (Stralman, Hedman), 16:08. Penalties—Beaulieu, MTL, Major (fighting), 2:56; Paquette, TB, Major (fighting), 2:56; Johnson, TB, (tripping), 5:32; Lehkonen, MTL, (holding), 19:37.
Third Period—2, Montreal, Galchenyuk 2 (Petry, Markov), 6:12 (pp). 3, Montreal, Pacioretty 2 (Pateryn, Shaw), 10:23. 4, Montreal, Mitchell 4, 19:16. Penalties—Markov, MTL, (delay of game), 1:26; Nesterov, TB, (roughing), 4:58; Shaw, MTL, (holding), 19:26. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 4-13-14—31. Montreal 9-8-9—26. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 3; Montreal 1 of 3. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop 3-2-0 (25 shots-23 saves). Montreal, Price 4-0-0 (31-30).