TAMPA — Lightning star forward Nikita Kucherov clearly has put the injury that knocked him out of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup semifinals behind him.
So much so that he’s not acknowledging it.
After Kucherov returned to the ice for Game 7 on Friday, he said there was no question in his mind he would play. By the eve of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, he had all but forgotten about the injury, at least during Sunday’s media session.
Asked how he felt after the Lightning’s Game 7 win and how he’s managing the injury now, Kucherov said, “There was no injury. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
“I felt good, and there was no question if I’m gonna play or not. So, all good.”
Kucherov left Game 6 after just one shift after being cross-checked from behind by Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield. Kucherov was slow to get up after the hit and was in obvious pain following an awkward check on Mathew Barzal later in the shift. He left for the locker room and did not return.
Kucherov’s status for Game 7 was up in the air until he took the ice for pregame warmups to the cheers of “Kuuuuch” from the Amalie Arena crowd watching the tunnel closely in anticipation.
“It was pretty huge, and it was nice that when he stepped on the ice fans started cheering,” Lightning forward Ondrej Palat said. “So that was pretty cool, and it was just a huge boost for us that we know he’s gonna play, so it was a great feeling and he played really well.”
Though clearly in discomfort, Kucherov had six shot attempts while playing 16 minutes, 29 seconds in the Lightning’s 1-0 win.
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