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Sport How Nikita Kucherov's injury could affect the Lightning

02:27  16 december  2019
02:27  16 december  2019 Source:   tampabay.com

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Forward Nikita Kucherov (86) suffered a right leg injury Saturday in the Tampa Bay Lightning 's 5-2 loss to Washington. It can also create a hairline fracture that forces a player out longer. The Lightning did not practice Sunday and coach Jon Cooper did not have an update on Kucherov ’ s

Also in this section. How Nikita Kucherov ’ s injury could affect the Lightning . Tampa Bay hasn’t played without Kucherov for more than two consecutive games since 2016. Nikita Kucherov leaves Lightning ’s loss to Washington.

TAMPA — The sight of Nikita Kucherov trying not to put weight on his right leg and then limping away from the bench strikes fear in Lightning fans.

Forward Nikita Kucherov  suffered a right leg injury Saturday in the Tampa Bay Lightning's 5-2 loss to Washington. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times© (86)/TNS/Tampa Bay Times/TNS Forward Nikita Kucherov suffered a right leg injury Saturday in the Tampa Bay Lightning's 5-2 loss to Washington. DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times

Kucherov blocked a shot by Capitals defenseman John Carlson and didn’t return to the 5-2 loss to the Capitals on Saturday. Now, everyone awaits more news.

Carlson won the hardest shot at last year’s All-Star Skills, reaching 102.8 miles-per-hour. There was no radar gun on the shot that hit Kucherov’s right shin, but suffice to say there’s no such thing as a soft slap shot.

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Nikita Kucherov speaks to members of the media for the first time since signing a 3-year contract extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning .

You can change this preference below. Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper joined Tim and Sid to talk about the team's reaction to Victor Hedman' s injury , Steven Stamkos overcoming tough injury past and Nikita Kucherov ' s impressive work ethic.

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Blocked shots can be stingers that a player can shake off, but a shot like that often takes a player out for a game or two. It can also create a hairline fracture that forces a player out longer.

The Lightning did not practice Sunday and coach Jon Cooper did not have an update on Kucherov’s status after the game.

"Hopefully he’s going to be OK. Obviously, he’s a huge part of our team,” Cooper said.

If Kucherov is out for any amount of time, the Lightning will have to make some changes. They do not have an extra healthy forward on the roster. The team could go back to playing 11 forwards and seven defensemen, which it did with mixed success for 10 games.

Kucherov heads to the locker room after taking a Carlson shot off the leg pic.twitter.com/atWJDaomZf

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Nikita Kucherov Bio. Kucherov was a second-round pick (No. 58) by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2011 NHL Draft, but he has played like a first-round Kucherov became a 40-goal scorer in 2016-17 and earned a Second-Team All-Star berth after finishing with 85 points. He was named a First-Team

You can change this preference below. The Tampa Bay Lightning are the hottest team in the league, and they've been blessed with the hottest duo on the ice. Take a look at how Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have improved by playing together and what makes their pairing so successful.

— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 15, 2019Cooper may take that route if the potential gap is short without Kucherov or between Kucherov and Tyler Johnson’s potential return from his own lower-body injury.

The Lightning has no qualms about using its recalls, and has an opening with Braydon Coburn on injured reserve. Cory Conacher could return to the NHL yet again. Or perhaps the team could take another look at forward Alex Volkov or a first look at someone like Alex Barre-Boulet, last year’s AHL rookie of the year.

The Lightning played an 11-7 lineup the one game Kucherov missed earlier this year. If they stick with the traditional lineup if Kucherov can’t play now, they could move Stamkos from his current line with Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli. That line had good chemistry against the Bruins and some strong play on Saturday, particularly early in the game, but Stamkos only put one shot on net.

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Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov will not play tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Tampa Bay Lightning has dealt with much As much as something like this affects the Tampa Bay Lightning and the fans, you can imagine how disappointing something like this is for Nikita

Kucherov needs just three more points to match his career high for scoring in a season (40-45-85) set in 2016-17.

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Another option could be moving Mathieu Joseph up, matching his speed with Point’s speed on a line. Maybe the Lightning give Carter Verhaeghe, who led the AHL in scoring last year, a chance to see what he can do playing with Point.

Whichever tact the Lightning take with the lineup, no one can just slot into Kucherov’s role. He is one of the most skilled players in the league and, as Brayden Point said after the game, cannot be replaced.

Even more than Kucherov’s impressive skill, though, his impact comes from his vision of the game. On Thursday, he made two power-play assists, digging the puck out and passing it right to a teammate without looking up.

First, as he turned away from the boards, he flung the puck to Steven Stamkos at the hash marks. The second time, he didn’t even turn, just threw the puck straight backward to Point. He doesn’t pause a beat for a glance to where he’s sending the puck, just makes the pass.

Kucherov missed one game earlier this year, after taking a big hit from St. Louis’ Brayden Schenn. He played every game last season and only missed two the year before that. The last time he missed any extended time was games from Dec. 14 to 28, 2016.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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