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Brayden Point skates, but Lightning temper expectations for his return

It’s “hard to say,” according to coach Jon Cooper, if Point will return during the conference final against the Rangers.
Lightning center Brayden Point has been sidelined since the final game of the first round.
Lightning center Brayden Point has been sidelined since the final game of the first round. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jun. 1|Updated Jun. 2

NEW YORK — After Brayden Point skated for the first time with equipment since suffering a lower-body injury in Game 7 of the Lightning’s first-round playoff series against the Maple Leafs, coach Jon Cooper emphasized that his team has prepared to be without its star center for the rest of the playoffs.

Point did light skating drills following the Lightning’s optional morning skate Wednesday before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final against the Rangers, a roughly half-hour session that included cone drills and a slip on the ice.

Hours later, Cooper said it was “hard to say” whether Point would be able to return during the conference final. “I would temper any of the expectations that he’s coming back at all” this postseason, Cooper said.

" ‘Pointer’ is playing hockey again,” Cooper said. “We just don’t know whether it’s this season, next season, this round, if we’re fortunate enough to win this round … can he play the next one? We don’t know that. Is he improving daily? He is. I think the worst of it is over for him.”

Wednesday marked 18 days since Point went down against the Maple Leafs with an apparent right leg/hip injury. The leg gave way underneath his body as he crashed into the boards while pursuing the puck near the end of the first period. He immediately grabbed his right hip area and struggled to put weight on the leg as he skated off.

Point tried to return in the second period but showed visible discomfort while trying to accelerate. He didn’t play the rest of the game.

Cooper’s update was probably the most discouraging indicator that Point could be shelved for the rest of the postseason.

He said Point had skated before Wednesday but this was his first time with gear on.

“If he gets to play in this series, that’s a bonus for everybody,” Cooper said. “It’s great to have him around with our group. He is a big part of our group. But guys are focused on who’s in and ready now.”

Point was arguably the Lightning’s top player against Toronto. With the Lightning facing elimination in Game 6, he scored in overtime to force Game 7.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.

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