TAMPA — The Lightning have been here before, forced to overcome the loss of a key player for an extended amount of time.
They made their first Stanley Cup run mostly without Steven Stamkos. They were without Nikita Kucherov for the entirety of last regular season and are again without Kucherov.
Now, the loss of first-line center Brayden Point, out indefinitely with an upper-body injury, adds another challenge.
Asked about the severity of Point’s injury following the Lightning’s 5-4 shootout win over the Wild on Sunday, Lightning coach Jon Cooper said, “let’s wait until we get a little bit more information.” But given the way Point was hobbled after slamming into the boards near the end of Saturday’s loss to the Devils, the Lightning must prepare for Point to miss significant time.
Without Kucherov and Point, the Lightning are without two of their top scorers for the foreseeable future. Kucherov isn’t expected back until at least late December.
“That’s why you’ve got to train the guys and have the mindset that regardless of who’s in the lineup, roles are going to change with players,” Cooper said, “but our mission stays the same.”
With the Lightning trailing by a goal midway through the third period of Saturday’s game, Point was tripped by Devils defenseman Ryan Graves. Point fell to the ice and crashed into the end boards on his left side. He got to his feet but crouched over in obvious pain.
Point remained in the game to take a penalty shot. He made a move that had Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood beaten but hit the top crossbar. He finished the game, playing four more shifts.
Without Point, Stamkos was the team’s first-line center on Sunday. Alex Barre-Boulet, recalled from AHL Syracuse earlier in the day, skated on the first line, scored a goal and logged time with the first-team power-play unit. Anthony Cirelli returned to his second-line center position and scored two goals.
Lightning forward Alex Killorn said after Sunday’s game that players were still waiting to hear how long Point will be out. Point is tied for second on the team with seven goals, had 13 points and entered Sunday’s game leading Lightning forwards with 20 minutes of average ice time.
“It’s like we’ve been saying with Kuch, it’s just opportunities for other guys to step up,” Killorn said. “But with him, it’s going to be very difficult, especially a centerman like him.”
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The Tampa Bay Times has commemorated the Lightning’s second consecutive Stanley Cup title with a new hardcover coffee table book, Striking Twice. Order now.
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