DENVER, Colo. — Tampa Bay's Brayden Point looked like himself on the ice Tuesday, just a month after being unable to skate when his right leg crumbled beneath him and he needed help to hobble off the rink.
Point appeared ready to return from a significant right leg injury that knocked him out of the past two rounds of the Tampa Bay Lightning's latest run to the Stanley Cup Final. Assuming nothing goes wrong before Game 1 Wednesday night, the back-to-back defending champions will be getting their leading goal-scorer from the past two championship years back just in time for the start of a highly anticipated series against the Colorado Avalanche.
“Things are leaning towards him playing,” coach Jon Cooper said. “If it’s not (Game 1), I really anticipate Game 2, but we’ll see how he is.”
Point said, “I don’t think anything is guaranteed” and added he's enjoying just practicing with teammates again. Still, given the stakes and Point's visible improvement a return is likely. If so, he won't face any artificial minutes restriction.
“He’s an elite player in this league, and he will play his minutes according to of how he’s responding,” Cooper said. “A lot of it’s going to be on how he’s feeling. I wouldn’t classify that Pointer’s going to be sitting on the bench a whole lot if he’s healthy. He’ll be out there.”
The Lightning were missing only winger Brandon Hagel for their first practice in Denver, though the key trade deadline acquisition skated Monday in Tampa. Colorado is facing injury questions of its own with forwards Nazem Kadri (thumb) and Andrew Cogliano (hand) questionable for Game 1 and beyond.