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Lightning Round: An update on Nikita Kucherov

The Russian winger is on track to return for the playoffs, but don’t expect him earlier

2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Two Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

With the 2021 NHL playoffs starting in one month, the looming question is whether Nikita Kucherov will be ready for the postseason (or even earlier)? After having hip surgery at the end of last year, Kucherov started skating just about a month ago and according to Jon Cooper is still on track to return once the playoffs start. Reportedly this timeline still hasn’t changed.

Yesterday Kucherov appeared at the Lightning’s morning practice, wearing a grey jersey. The color of Kucherov’s practice jersey shouldn’t encourage fans though, he wasn’t fully participating in practice and still hasn’t been cleared for contact, but took rushes with Gemel Smith and Daniel Walcott and then remained on the ice while taxi-squad members went back to the locker room.

During his Friday media availability, Jon Cooper was asked if there’s a chance that Kucherov will return before the start of postseason, but the Lightning’s head coach doesn’t expect it to happen. Per Cooper, Nikita Kucherov is slightly ahead of his return schedule, but he would have to be several weeks ahead of it to return during this regular season.

As Hardev already speculated in his yesterday’s Lightning Round, technically there’s a chance that, after putting Steven Stamkos on LTIR, the Lightning could activate the Russian winger by assigning two additional players to taxi squad and running a 20-man roster for the rest of the season. However, despite the fact that the Lightning are still in the mix for the first place in the Central Division, there’s no need to rush Kucherov’s rehabilitation as the team is comfortably sitting in the playoff spot.

Cooper also discussed if Steven Stamkos recent injury is somehow related to his last year’s core muscle injury, due to which he almost completely missed the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Cooper said that they will know more about the nature of his injury before tonight’s game.

Lightning Links

The Orlando Solar Bears completed a comeback against the South Carolina Stingrays to secure a 5-3 victory on Friday night. Tristin Langan scored his first career hat-trick, goaltender Clint Windsor recorded his 16th victory of the season, setting a new career-high in his third year with the team.

The NHL Department of Player Safety haven’t examined a Radko Gudas knee-to-knee hit on Anthony Cirelli during the previous game against the Florida Panthers. The Lightning forward didn’t appear at yesterday’s practice, taking a body maintenance day.

Hockey News

The Winnipeg Jets signed a five-year extension with forward Adam Lowry.

The Detroit Red Wings signed Lucas Raymond, the fourth overall pick in last year’s draft, to s three-year entry-level contract.

The NHL postponed all of the Colorado Avalanche games through April 20, after three of their players entered the NHL’s COVID Protocols.

Nils Hoglander has been removed from the NHL’s COVID Protocols, just two of the Vancouver Canucks players remaining on the list

The Canucks captain Bo Horvat supported his teammate JT Miller, after the former Lightning player questioned the league for rushing the team back after COVID-19 outbreak within the organization. The Canucks had their second practice yesterday since their facilities were re-opened.

It seems like Taylor Hall has found his confidence, after scoring his second goal in the third game as a Boston Bruins player.