Nikita Kucherov returned to the lineup for the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Calgary Flames at the Amalie Arena on Thursday (19:00 ET; BSSUN, SNW, ESPN +, NHL LIVE).
The striker has missed 32 games since last playing on October 16 when he sustained a lower body injury. He underwent surgery on October 26 and was expected to be out for 8-10 weeks.
“This has built up,” coach Jon Cooper said. “We have in a way targeted this match as the match he is coming back. So I guess the really good thing is that there is no step back.
“Boys are excited tonight, but again there is uncertainty with our lineup. But ‘Kuch’ is one of the securities, so it’s good.”
Kucherov has scored four points (one goal, three assists) in three games this season. He missed the 2020-21 regular season while recovering from hip surgery before returning to the Stanley Cup playoffs. He led after the season with 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists) in 23 games to help Lightning win the Stanley Cup for the second season in a row.
“I think for him, he’s been through it before,” Lyn said Alex Killorn said. “Last year was very impressive because of the large number of matches he missed… where he jumped straight into the playoffs where hockey is so high. He knows what he has to do to get ready. What is it? I I do not know. But he seems to have found out. “
Kucherov is number eight in the NHL in points since the 2014-15 season (533) despite having played three games the past two seasons.
“He’s one of the best players in the NHL,” Killorn said. “I think even seeing him train out there, even like on power play, it’s something special to see him back and how he can find players, and how hard he works when he has not played, so he can be ready when his time comes. He is a special player. “
Kucherov returns to a lineup that got Brayden Point back Dec. 28 after the center missed 14 games with an upper body injury. Lightning went 11-2-1 without points and is 22-8-5 this season, first in the Atlantic Division.
The lightning also appeared Steven Stamkos in the row Thursday after he was a match-time decision with an undisclosed injury. Stamkos leads Lynet with 40 points (16 goals, 24 assists) in 34 games this season.
To make room on the list for Kucherov, forward Riley Nash was dropped on Wednesday. He was claimed by the Arizona Coyotes Thursday.
NHL.com’s independent correspondent Corey Long contributed to this report