BRANDON — Replacing Nikita Kucherov on the Lightning’s top power-play unit will be no easy task. On Tuesday, the team offered its first glimpse into how it plans to adjust with the man advantage.
Before the morning practice, the team’s revamped top unit saw its first work, with Brayden Point taking Kucherov’s position near the right circle.
Steven Stamkos was by the left circle, defensemen Victor Hedman up top. Tyler Johnson returned to the top unit in the middle, and Ondrej Palat remained below the goal line.
“You want to put the puck in the hands of your best players, and Pointer is one of our best players,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He’s played there before, not as much obviously when Kuch has been around. It was Day 1 of working on special teams, so we’ve got some ideas on some things.”
The Lightning’s top power-play unit ran through Kucherov last season — he had a team-high 21 power-play assists in the regular season and 12 more in the postseason. While he and Point are both dynamic playmakers, they offer different looks. Point was more of a finisher on the power play. He led the team with four power-play goals in the playoffs and had eight — second-most on the team — during the regular season.
“Pointer is a great player, he’s very skilled,” Johnson said. “It’s gonna be a little different than Kuch. Kuch can kind of slow the game down a little bit and find his seams that way, where Pointer, he moves his feet, he uses his legs, so it’s a little bit of a different look as far as the speed of the process of everything.”
Cooper indicated that there shouldn’t be too much stock placed in the initial formation, since the Lightning used several power-play combinations in the bubble with success.
“In the bubble, if you remember, we’ve moved guys all over the place on our power play,” Cooper said. “So Pointer, he played both flanks. Kuch played both sides, and it seemed to work out for us changing things up a little bit.”
The Lightning’s second power-play unit took the ice before the team’s second practice on Tuesday. That group consisted of Alex Killorn (left circle), Mikhail Sergachev (top), Anthony Cirelli (right circle), Yanni Gourde (middle) and Pat Maroon (below goal line).
Defenseman Sean Day missed his second straight day of practice and, according to the team, is “unfit to play,” the catch-all term the league began using over the summer that no longer distinguishes between a player who is injured or could have tested positive or been exposed to COVID-19. The NHL has a COVID-19 list this season but not until the regular season begins. ... Other than Day, the only players still absent from camp are defensemen Erik Cernak and Jan Rutta, who had immigration issues and are currently quarantining. They are expected to return Thursday.
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Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.
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