TAMPA — Brayden Point was one of the last Lightning players to hit the ice Monday morning. But when he did, he was a full participant.
He did not skate with the top line, instead pairing with Ross Colton and Nick Paul. He did take reps with the No. 1 power-play unit, on which he scored 22 points (including 10 goals) during the regular season.
After the Lightning’s series-clinching victory over the Rangers in Game 6 of the conference final, coach Jon Cooper said it was “extremely probable” that Point would return during the Stanley Cup final but was not sure about Game 1 on Wednesday. Point has been missing since Game 7 of the opening round against the Maple Leafs, when he sustained a lower-body injury after getting tangled up against the boards.
Assistant coach Jeff Halpern said he didn’t have any updates on Point’s status.
“I don’t know if (Monday) was any indication,” Halpern said. “It was (a) pretty easy skate.”
Veteran forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said the Lightning “answered the bell” to win two straight series without their top goal-scorer during the team’s previous two Stanley Cup runs.
“This is why we play the game,” he said, “to be able to play in June. … We did the job and now we are in a Stanley Cup final, and he has a chance to come back. I mean, I think it’s (a) good reward. He worked hard and didn’t deserve to go down this way, and now he’s got a chance to play in a Cup final. That’s amazing.”
Rocky Mountain High
Besides the Avalanche’s blistering attack and a hostile crowd, the Lightning also will be fighting against the altitude Wednesday in Denver.
No one on the Lightning is more cognizant of Colorado’s home-ice advantage than Bellemare, who played his last two seasons with the Avalanche before moving to Tampa this season. He played in 60 total home games with the Avalanche, logging more than 740 minutes of ice time at Ball Arena.
“It’s hard to not focus on it, because your body is going to give you a message, send you a message at times,” he said, adding some fake wheezing for effect.
Halpern admitted — with a chuckle — that he also “felt it” while playing away games at Colorado during his 14-year NHL career. He played in Denver twice during his final season with the Coyotes, recording one assist.
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“I think especially the first period is probably when you feel it the most,” he said.
Halpern said having the team arrive on Monday should be an easier adjustment than flying in shortly before a regular-season game, though.
“So we’re trying to do as much as possible to accommodate the guys for that,” he said. “And after that, it’s beyond our control (and) what we can prepare for.”
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