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Lightning Round: Nikita Kucherov out 8-10 weeks

At least we have a time frame

Russian ice hockey player Nikita Kucherov brings Stanley Cup to Moscow ice hockey school Photo by Gavriil Grigorov\TASS via Getty Images

The good news is that Nikita Kucherov should be back at some point this season. If all goes well with his rehab from the “procedure” he had on Tuesday, he should be back on the ice some in the next 8-10 weeks. That would put his return some time in January, just in time for the Tampa Bay Lightning to kick things into gear for a playoff push.

All they have to do during the next two months is stay in the playoff race. They can’t fall too far behind because this is an extremely hard league to catch up in, especially now that the games are spread out among all the divisions. Once nice thing about the division-only play last season was that a team could make up ground quickly since every game was basically worth four points in the standings.

As of right now, the Lightning are in the fourth spot of the Atlantic Division, which is the final playoff spot. They are two points behind the second and third place teams, Detroit and Buffalo, while Florida has opened up a seven point lead on them by capturing all fourteen points available to them so far. The good news is that Buffalo and Detroit should fade as the season wears on and Florida can’t keep winning every game. The Maple Leafs and Bruins are treading water along with the Lightning and are likely to be their toughest competition moving forward.

If the Bolts keep playing like they have been over the last few games, they should be in an alright spot once Kucherov is ready to return. Another silver lining is that, even if he does participate in the Olympics, he’ll have two fewer months of wear and tear on his body and should be fairly healthy for the stretch run. Hopefully, whatever surgery he just had will also eliminate any lingering issues from the hip and groin problems he’s been dealing with.

The timeline also precludes the Lightning from picking up any big name (thus big money) players to fill the void. Since he will be back this season, they will need to fit his salary back under the cap once he’s back on the ice and off of LTIR. So, the Lightning are going to have to keep finding the answers from within the organization. Tuesday’s win in Pittsburgh shows that they’re starting to get their groove back at even strength, now they just need to figure the key to finishing on the power play.

Lightning / NHL Links

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