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After all these years, Nikita Kucherov gets an ‘A’ for effort in Tampa Bay

The Lightning star wore an “A” on his sweater Sunday night for the first time, signifying his spot as an alternate captain.
Nikita Kucherov, wearing an "A" on his sweater as an alternate captain, celebrates his first-period goal in Tampa Bay's 6-3 win against the Washington Capitals on Sunday night at Amalie Arena.
Nikita Kucherov, wearing an "A" on his sweater as an alternate captain, celebrates his first-period goal in Tampa Bay's 6-3 win against the Washington Capitals on Sunday night at Amalie Arena. [ JASON BEHNKEN | AP ]
Published Nov. 14

TAMPA — Nine years and nearly 600 games into his Lightning career, Nikita Kucherov wore the “A” of an alternate captain on his sweater for the first time in Sunday night’s 6-3 victory against Washington.

The “A” has most often been worn by Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh in Tampa Bay in recent seasons, although Alex Killorn, Corey Perry and Ondrej Palat have occasionally been named alternate captains.

“Kuch has been around for a few years now. I’m sure, inside, he was excited about it,” Lightning assistant coach Rob Zettler said after Monday’s practice. “It means a lot, no matter how old you are. To have an ‘A’ on your jersey in the NHL or a ‘C’ on your jersey in the NHL is a big deal.”

Steven Stamkos has been the Lightning captain for more than eight years, which is among the longest tenures in the NHL.

Kucherov is off to a blistering start this season with seven goals and 16 assists in 15 games, which is a similar pace to his 2019 MVP season.

“He’s worked hard on the backcheck, he’s worked hard to defend plays and he’s one of our leaders,” Zettler said. “He’s the most talented guy on our team. He’s had some success on the scoreboard, putting up numbers, but he’s also working hard.”

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