It must be game one of the playoffs, because Nikita Kucherov is set to return to the Tampa Bay Lightning's lineup following a lengthy layoff due to injury.
That's how this works, right?
Kucherov missed 32 games after undergoing surgery to repair a lower-body injury he suffered on Oct. 16 versus the Washington Capitals, marking the second straight season that the injury bug robbed him of long stretches of playing time.
The Lightning managed to stay afloat and then some without their star sniper for the past three months, as the team will enter Thursday night's contest at the top of the Atlantic Division with an NHL-best 49 points. Adding one of the best pure scorers in the league back into their lineup seems downright unfair, and yet speaks to just how remarkable of a job Julien Brisebois did in padding Tampa's roster with high-quality depth in the off-season.
The last time Kucherov returned to action after an extended injury layoff was for the first game of the Lightning's run through the 2021 playoffs, with the 28-year-old racking up an absurd 32 points in 23 games en route to Tampa's second consecutive Stanley Cup.
Fans will have to tune in tonight to see what he has planned for an encore.