The Lightning took the ice for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final against the Islanders without Brayden Point. He left Wednesday’s game in the second period.
Point did take part in the morning skate Friday. He can be seen standing along the boards in the daily video shared by the league. The extent to which he participated is unknown and he was unavailable for the game.
Carter Verhaeghe and Mitchell Stephens entered the lineup with Point and Alex Killorn, who has been suspended one game, out.
Point didn’t have an obvious injury Wednesday, but the way he awkwardly climbed on the boards to get to the bench could indicate a hamstring issue. He crawled up with both knees on top of the boards, rather than just throwing a leg over like usual.
The shift preceding that moment, Point seemed to pull up after skating hard down the ice in transition.
The Lightning’s top center has been their best player in the postseason. He leads the team with 23 points and eight goals. It’s been far from a one-man show — Nikita Kucherov has 22 points and is one of four players with at least five goals — but Point has brought an energy and dynamism above others.
“He’s a really special player," Tyler Johnson said of Point. "So whenever he’s not playing, everyone needs to step up. There’s not one player. Everyone has to step up and contribute.”
The Lightning have been playing with 11 forwards and decided to stick with that format, despite Point leading the forwards in ice time. The team is 6-0 (dating back to Game 2 against the Bruins in the second round) when using 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
They warmed up Alex Volkov as well, in order to keep the Islanders guessing. The Lightning have warmed up an extra skater nearly every game of the playoffs.
Verhaeghe and Stephens both played early in the postseason, before the Lightning switched to this format, making them the most likely candidates to play now. Verhaeghe was something of a surprise, making the team out of training camp (the original one back in Sept. 2019). Stephens joined the Lightning in December and stuck for the duration.