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Tampa Bay Lightning await word on injured Nikita Kucherov

Jun 5, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) works out prior to the game in game four of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 5, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) works out prior to the game in game four of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning, hurting after losing Game 6 to the New York Islanders on Wednesday in the Stanley Cup semifinals, have another reason for concern.

Right winger Nikita Kucherov, the team’s leading postseason scorer, exited the Wednesday game after only one shift covering 46 seconds of ice time. He appeared to get hurt when he was cross-checked by Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield, though no penalty was called.

Kucherov subsequently checked New York’s Mathew Barzal before leaving the game in apparent pain. The Islanders went on to win 3-2 in overtime at Uniondale, N.Y., forcing a Game 7 on Friday in Tampa.

After the game, the Lightning did not have a definite answer on Kucherov’s availability for the series finale.

Kucherov, 28, missed the entire regular season following hip surgery, then returned for the start of the postseason and was back at the form he flashed while winning the Hart Trophy (MVP) and Ross Trophy (points leader) in 2018-19.

Through 17 playoff games this season, Kucherov has a league-high 22 assists and a league-best 27 points.

“There’s no replacing Kuch,” Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos said. “He’s had an unbelievable playoffs for us. He’s so lethal out there offensively.”

Lightning coach Jon Cooper, alluding to Kucherov’s regular-season-long absence, said postgame, “We’ve been down this path for four months. We won games with him and we won them without him.”

–Field Level Media