Lightning lose another offensive kingpin to the NHL injury list
The Tampa Bay Lightning lineup became significantly less dangerous over the weekend when No. 1 center Brayden Point suffered an upper body injury that sidelines him indefinitely.
The Lightning are already playing without high-scoring wing Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Erik Cernak. Kucherov (surgery, lower body) won’t be back until at least late December or early January and Cernak (upper body) will be out multiple weeks.
“Roles are going to change with players,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “But our mission stays the same.”
The key injuries come on top of last summer’s loss of Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman to free agency and Yanni Gourde in the expansion draft to the Seattle Kraken. Tyler Johnson was also moved to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Point slammed into the boards Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils after being tripped by defenseman Ryan Graves.
If Point is placed on the long-term injured reserve, Lightning general manager Julie BriseBois will have more than enough money to swing a trade for offensive help.
The Lightning’s objective is simply to qualify for the playoffs, to give themselves a shot at a third-consecutive Stanley Cup championship. No team has accomplished that since the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1980 to 1983. Even today, with their current injury list, the Lightning are tied for second at FanDuel with the second-best odds (+850) to win the Stanley Cup again.The Colorado Avalanche are first at +650.
With or without the addition of another scorer, the Lightning should be able to make the playoffs. The Atlantic Division has the Florida Panthers, Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins as the “haves.” The rest of the Atlantic teams are have-nots. The Red Wings have shown some improvement, but their defensive game, in its present state, isn’t good enough to give them a good shot at making the playoffs.
The Lightning are just one of several teams that have had their rosters undermined by significant injuries or multiple injuries. Here is an update on some of those teams:
Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin remains out while he rehabilitates from knee surgery. He’s expected to return before Christmas. Their good news is Sidney Crosby is back. He missed seven games recovering from wrist surgery and another five games in Covid protocol. He has played five games, but hasn’t been himself. He has one goal and one assist. The Penguins played better than expected early, but the injuries and a run of Covid in the locker room, has had an impact.
Washington Capitals: Center Nicklas Backstrom hasn’t played at all because of a hip problem. Washington fans were worried it might hurt Ovechkin’s production. It didn’t. Ovechkin (15 goals, 30 points, 19 games) is off to one of the best starts of his career. It helped that Evgeny Kuznetsov rediscovered his offensive flair.
New York Islanders: Defenseman Ryan Pulock is out for four to six weeks. Anders Lee, Josh Bailey and Adam Pelech are on the Covid Protocol list. Now Brock Nelson is injured, although he is listed day-to-day. The Islanders are off to a slow start and these factors have contributed.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers feel fortunate Aleksander Barkov didn’t need surgery on his injured knee. He is listed as week-to-week. The Panthers are on a three-game winning streak after going 0-2-2.
Colorado Avalanche: Center Nathan MacKinnon is expected to return at some point on a five-game road trip that starts Dec. 1. He’s been out since Nov. 6 with a lower body injury. The Avs are 4-0 in his absence. He’s now skating on his own. The Avs started slowly this season. MacKinnon has missed six of their 14 games.
Montreal Canadiens: Defenseman Shea Weber, key to last year’s march to the Stanley Cup Final, may never play again. Goalie Carey Price hasn’t played yet.
Detroit Red Wings: Jakub Vrana was supposed to be Detroit’s leading scorer and he hasn’t played because of shoulder surgery. In his absence, Lucas Raymond has emerged as a leading Calder Trophy candidate.
Edmonton Oilers: Goalie Mike Smith was placed on long-term injured reserve Friday. He has only played three games. The Oilers may have to trade for a goalie
Vegas Golden Knights: They have been run over by injuries and Covid. Mark Stone is back and Max Pacioretty is practicing with the team. The Golden Knights have already lost more than 100 man games to injury. But they are winning again.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Patrik Laine could be out another four weeks with an oblique injury. The Blue Jackets need all hands on deck to make the playoffs.