TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he expects to use the same formation in Game 6 that he used in Game 5, which means the center Brayden Point will miss his fourth straight Stanley Cup Finals game.
Point skated with the team again before Game 6 on Sunday night 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. It’s just difficult conversations because everyone wants the same thing,” Cooper said.
Point missed the Lightning’s second- and third-round wins with a lower-body injury he suffered in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 14. He returned in the Stanley Cup Finals, playing the first two games in Denver. He had an assist in their Game 1 loss, but clearly didn’t have the same explosive skating that defined him with the Lightning. The team has scratched him in 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 hampered by the injury.
“It’s tricky because players are used to playing a certain way. If they don’t feel confident to play at the caliber they’re used to, it almost works against them,” Cooper said. “So it’s unfortunate because it’s a serious injury, and at this time of year everyone is trying to get back into the line-up and there are just things you can’t do. When you can’t do what you’re used to doing, it’s hard for a player.”
The Lightning coach left open the possibility that Point, who has more goals (30) than any other player in the past three playoffs, could return to the lineup for a potential Game 7 at Denver on Tuesday.
“He’s still sorting himself out here, rehabilitating himself and trying to get better. Who knows? If the streak goes one more game, you never know. It’s tough for these guys because that they are such competitors,” Cooper said.
The Avalanche are also monitoring injuries, with coach Jared Bednar leaving the door open for forwards Andre Burakovsky and Valeri Nichushkin to play in Sunday’s Cup-deciding potential.
Bednar said “we’ll see” about Burakovsky’s return 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 “hope he will be there”.
ESPN’s Kristen Shilton contributed to this report.