The Tampa Bay Lightning announced via head coach Jon Cooper that right-winger Nikita Kucherov is sidelined for at least tonight’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks with an upper-body injury. His status for Saturday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks is unsure.
— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) November 21, 2019
Nikita Kucherov Injured
During the second period of Tuesday night’s game against the St. Louis Blues, Kucherov was dumping the puck into the offensive zone when he was drilled with a clean hit from Blues forward Brayden Schenn. Kucherov got up slowly while a melee ensued, and Schenn was penalized on the play for roughing.
So far this season, Kucherov has scored six goals and 12 assists for 18 points to go along with eight minutes in penalties. His possession numbers were 53.9 percent Corsi and a relative Corsi of 5.1 percent.
Over his seven-year NHL career, Kucherov has played exclusively for the Lightning. He has 194 goals and 286 assists for 480 career points in 465 career games. He was originally drafted by the Lightning in the second round, 58th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
What This Means for the Future
This Lightning team hasn’t gotten off to the start they’ve hoped, sitting just two games above .500 at 9-7-2. That’s only good enough for seventh in the Atlantic Divison. Kucherov has been shooting at a decent rate this year (14.6 percent). The shots and shot quality haven’t been there, however. Kucherov, after winning last year’s Art Ross Trophy for most points with 128, is only on pace for 82. While 80 plus points is a big deal, it’s certainly not up the standard ‘Kuch’ has set for himself and the team. And while he’s still putting up points, the argument could be made that four or five players on the Lightning have had more successful seasons than him.
However, if Tampa Bay is to rebound, Kucherov is a crucial part. Along with pure star power, he brings elite shooting, skating, puck control, and hockey I.Q. that many others lack. He’s a versatile player and the heart and soul of Tampa Bay’s offence along with Steven Stamkos. His return may end up representing the turning point of the Lightning’s season.
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