Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov left last night’s game, a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, and did not return. Kucherov took a hard check midway through the first period and looked to have injured his left shoulder. Kucherov skated to the bench afterward, and did come out for his next shift, but did not return to the bench following the period break.
When asked about the status of the team’s leading scorer in 2015-16, The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith reports that coach Jon Cooper had little to add. Other than confirming that Kucherov had not suffered a concussion, Cooper said that the nature of the injury and it’s extent were still unknown. Cooper believes that Kucherov was simply hit “the wrong way” on that check, indicating that it should not be a long-term injury.
In the meantime, if Kucherov is out for a few games, the Lightning will not be too short-handed. Ryan Callahan is nearing return to the lineup, after rehabbing from hip surgery, and may be ready to go as early as the team’s next game on Saturday. Tampa also has the luxury of experienced wingers like Cory Conacher and Erik Condra playing in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch who could be called up as well. While no one can replace Kucherov point-for-point (he has 131 of them over the past two seasons), the Lightning are well-equipped to handle a short absence for the Russian scorer.