TAMPA — Lightning coach Jon Cooper on Saturday ruled out Brayden Point for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final against the Rangers today at Amalie Arena.
The game will be the seventh straight Point has missed since suffering a lower-body injury in Game 7 of the opening-round series against the Maple Leafs.
Point was a key contributor to the past two Stanley Cup championship runs, leading all players with 14 goals each of the past two postseasons. His absence has left a significant hole in the lineup, but the Lightning aren’t using it as an excuse for falling into a two-game series deficit against the Rangers.
“Obviously, (Point is) a huge part of this team and has been one of the best playoff players the past couple of years,” said forward Anthony Cirelli, “but at the end of the day, we can’t be using (his absence) as an excuse.
“We saw last round (a sweep of the Panthers) what we could do and how we can play, so obviously it sucks not having him right now. But at the end of the day, we have to be better as a whole. Everyone has to bring a little bit more to the table to fill that spot.”
Without Point, the Lightning have played with a lineup of 11 forwards and seven defensemen. It limited high-danger scoring chances and frustrated Florida’s record-setting offense but hasn’t been quite as impactful against New York.
Cooper said he wasn’t sure if he would stick with an 11-7 lineup today or go back to 12 forwards and six defensemen. Switching up likely would mean adding veteran forward Riley Nash, a healthy scratch throughout the postseason, or AHL callup Cole Koepke, who filled in for banged-up Brandon Hagel in practice during the break between the Florida and New York series.
“Hard to say,” Cooper said of his lineup composition. “If not the same (lineup), then close.”
With home-ice advantage for Games 3 and 4, the Lightning have the last change and can better control the matchups on the ice.
“There’s lots of things (you can do with the last change),” Cooper said. “But in the end, if your urgency is low or you’re turning pucks over or you give up the rushes we’re giving up, matchups don’t really matter. It’s a team game that we have to get better at.”
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