TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he expects to go with the same lineup in Game 6 that he used in Game 5, meaning center Brayden Point will miss his fourth straight game of the Stanley Cup Final.
Point skated with the team again ahead of Sunday night’s Game 6 in Tampa, with the Colorado Avalanche leading the series 3-2.
“It’s extremely difficult for everyone involved because everyone cares so much. But there’s no animosity or anything like that. They’re just difficult conversations because everybody wants the same thing,” Cooper said.
Point missed the Lightning’s second- and third-round series victories with a lower-body injury he suffered in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 14. He returned in the Stanley Cup Final, playing the first two games in Denver. He picked up an assist in their Game 1 loss but clearly didn’t have the same explosive skating that has defined him with the Lightning. The team scratched him for the last three games, replacing him in the lineup with Riley Nash.
Cooper said it has been difficult for Point, who has the will to play but remains hindered by the injury.
“It’s tricky because players are used to playing at a certain way. If they don’t feel confident in playing at the caliber they’re used to, it almost works against them,” Cooper said. “So it’s unfortunate because it’s a severe injury, and at this time of the year, everybody’s trying to get back into the lineup and just there are some things you can’t do. When you can’t do what you’re used to doing, it’s tough on a player.”
The Lightning coach did leave open the possibility that Point, who has more goals (30) than any other player over the past three postseasons, could return to the lineup for a potential Game 7 in Denver on Tuesday.
“He’s still plugging along here and rehabbing and trying to get better. Who knows? If the series goes one more game, you never know. It’s tough on these guys because they’re such competitors,” Cooper said.
The Avalanche are monitoring injuries as well, with coach Jared Bednar leaving the door open for forwards Andre Burakovsky and Valeri Nichushkin to play in Sunday’s potential Cup clincher.
Bednar said “we’ll see” about Burakovsky returning to the series for the first time since leaving Game 2 with an injury. The coach was more positive about Nichushkin, who left Game 5 with a right leg injury, saying the team is “hoping he’s going to be in.”
ESPN’s Kristen Shilton contributed to this report.