TAMPA — The Lightning could clinch a third consecutive Stanley Cup final berth with a win tonight as the team leads the best-of-seven series with the Rangers 3-2.
And they’ll have to do so without Brayden Point.
Point was not on the ice for pre-game warmups. This morning, coach Jon Cooper didn’t rule him out, a sign that Point could be back in the lineup in the games to come should the series extend to seven or the team claims the other spot in the Cup final (Colorado will represent the Western Conference).
“I think if you see him in warmups, then he’s probably a game-time decision,” Cooper said earlier in the day. “If you don’t see him in warmups, that pretty much tells you what’s going on with him. We’ll see how he’s feeling after the skate.”
Point missed his 10th consecutive game since sustaining a lower-body injury in Game 7 of the opening round against Toronto.
Point has shown signs of progress this month, skating with the team in full pads for the first time on June 1 and working on the ice daily. This morning, he was on the ice for optional skate and worked through drills in small groups.
“If he’s healthy, he’s a big part of their group,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “He might be arguably the best all-around player, in my opinion. He plays a great two-way hockey game and he’s a great player, but now you have to be healthy, and that makes a big difference.”
And although Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh missed most of the third period in the Game 5 win in New York, he was on the ice for warmups, skating alongside Erik Cernak in a defensemen pairing.
On the Rangers side, Gallant and his staff opted to scratch Kaapo Kakko, who had played in every game of this series (logging an assist in Game 1 and scoring a goal in Game 2). Meanwhile, Dryden Hunt cracked the lineup for the first time since Game 3 against Pittsburgh in the opening round.
Additionally, New York veteran forward Ryan Reaves was scratched for the second straight game.
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