Bolts’ Kucherov likely for Gm. 4; Point doubtful

    Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov is likely to play in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday after leaving their Game 3 victory with an injury.

“As I sit right now, I think he can play tomorrow,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Tuesday. “But I’m not Kuch. If I know Kuch, he’s sitting there saying the same thing. But we’ll see what the doctors and everybody says.”

Kucherov left Monday’s 6-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche with 6:05 remaining in the third period. As Kucherov handled the puck, Avs defenseman Devon Toews stuck his stick in the Lightning star’s back and then pushed him along the ice into the boards as Kucherov fell to one knee. Kucherov got up and briefly went after Toews, who received a minor penalty on the play.

Kucherov came out for the ensuing power play, but he left for the trainers’ room after that. He leads the Lightning with 26 points in 20 games, including a pair of assists in Game 3 as Tampa Bay cut the series lead to 2-1.

Cooper was optimistic about Kucherov playing in Game 4.

“I think so. I hope so,” Cooper said. “It’s always difficult when the game is 12 hours ago or whatever it was. A lot can happen over the next two days. Am I glad there’s a day off between games? Yes. We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”

Cooper added that Kucherov has played through injuries before.

“Put it this way: If you watched last year’s playoff and know what he went through to finish, I never count that kid out,” Cooper said of Kucherov, who played with a cracked rib in the 2021 playoffs.

The Lightning were upset about the Toews play. “It’s one of those plays you don’t want to see,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “It’s a dangerous play. You never want to see that. We’ll see if anything happens — probably not — but it’s a dangerous play.”

The NHL Department of Player Safety opted not to discipline Toews, according to an NHL source.

In other Lightning injury news, Cooper said center Brayden Point is “highly doubtful” and is expected to miss his second straight game in the Stanley Cup Final.

Point suffered a lower-body injury on May 14 in Game 7 of the first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He missed the next two playoff rounds, but he returned in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals and played in Game 2. He was a game-time decision for Game 3 but didn’t dress for the game, with center Riley Nash drawing in.

“Give the guys credit. They knew what they had to do and they did it,” Cooper said of Tampa Bay’s victory in Game 3. “Now we’ve gotta do it again.”

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