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It’s 31 days later and Brayden Point is on the verge of returning

Lightning coach Jon Cooper says all signs indicate Point will be ready for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final but the final decision will be made Wednesday.
Brayden Point has been methodically working himself back into shape after a lower body injury against Toronto in Game 7 knocked him out of the next two rounds of the playoffs against Florida and New York.
Brayden Point has been methodically working himself back into shape after a lower body injury against Toronto in Game 7 knocked him out of the next two rounds of the playoffs against Florida and New York. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jun. 15

DENVER — No one has ever questioned Brayden Point’s heart, and that’s what makes this worrisome.

He’s missed 10 games and 31 days in the middle of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and that can only mean his lower body injury was either significant or highly painful. Or possibly both.

So now that he’s on the verge of coming back — possibly for Game 1 against Colorado — the hockey world is wondering how effective Point can be. From the sound of it, Point may be wondering, too.

“Anytime you’re coming back, it’s a (question) of your timing and whatnot. You can’t replicate playoff hockey in a practice. It just doesn’t happen,” Point said. “So it’ll be an adjustment for sure. But, you know, it’s the playoffs. You have to make sure you’re doing everything you can to be a positive addition.”

Point skated with his teammates at Ball Arena on Tuesday afternoon and there didn’t seem to be any sign that the injury was affecting his movement, although it’s hard to tell at practice speed when no one is trying to size you up for a hit.

Brayden Point jokes with teammates as he takes the ice during a  practice before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final against the Avalanche.
Brayden Point jokes with teammates as he takes the ice during a practice before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final against the Avalanche. [ DAVID ZALUBOWSKI | AP ]

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said “things are leaning towards him playing” in Game 1, but that the decision will not be made until Wednesday.

“We (aren’t) going to push anything,” Cooper said. “It’s all about how he feels. He felt pretty good (Tuesday). Let’s see how he responds (Wednesday).”

While he led the NHL in postseason goals in both 2020 and 2021, there is no guarantee Point will step right back into Tampa Bay’s top two lines. During Tuesday’s practice, Point was skating on the third line with Nick Paul and Ross Colton.

“Brayden Point is an elite player in this league. And he will play his minutes accordingly to how he is responding,” Cooper said. “It’s tough to not play and then jump right into a Stanley Cup final game. The great thing about our team … is guys have played with each other all over the place. So follow the system and they’re going to be in good shape regardless of who they play with.

“But I wouldn’t classify that Pointer is going to be sitting on the bench a whole lot. If he’s healthy, he’ll be out there.”

Point has been out since he fell awkwardly near the wall during Game 7 against Toronto on May 14. He tried to return later in the game, but was struggling to skate and went back to the bench where he hung his head near his legs for several minutes as teammates consoled him.

He didn’t answer specific questions about the injury on Tuesday, and declined to say whether there was any chance of aggravating his condition by playing.

When asked about the range of emotions he has experienced since then, Point struggled to find the right words.

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“You just want to be out there, you want to help. That’s how I was feeling,” Point said. “I don’t know if there’s one specific emotion. I guess frustration, you know, when you want to get out there and the body is saying no.”

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

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