First, it was goaltender Ben Bishop whose status was questioned for Saturday’s Game 5. Now, winger Nikita Kucherov’s status for Monday’s Game 6 is up in the air. However, coach Jon Cooper said one third of the ‘Triplets’ line is “probable” for what could be the Stanley Cup-deciding game.
“Go in football terms,” Cooper said. “How do they go? Probable. I'll go probable.”
That’s a slight upgrade, though; earlier Kucherov was said to “questionable” for Game 6. Like Bishop’s Game 5 status, much of Kucherov’s ability to play relied upon whether or not he would take part in the morning skate. He did, and now it appears he could play Monday evening.
Kucherov, who has 10 goals and 22 points in 25 post-season games thus far, was injured early in Game 5 following a collision with the goal post on a scoring opportunity he had after a turnover by Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford. The collision, which resulted in Kucherov being launched into the post and slamming his shoulder into the bar, left him clutching his shoulder as he skated off the ice.
With Kucherov out of the lineup for most of Game 5, Steven Stamkos skated in his place alongside Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson. However, that forced the Lightning to stack one line – the ‘Triplets’ with Stamkos – instead of spread out the threat throughout the offense.
“Primarily we've had most of our success when Johnny's line has been together, when (Filppula), (Stamkos) and (Killorn) have been together, when Paquette, Callahan and Brown have been together, Boyle, Morrow and (Drouin), that's when we've had our success,” Cooper said following Monday’s morning skate. “Circumstances have pulled that away from us sometimes. (Kucherov) gets hurt. You've had to move different guys around.
For the most part that's got it done for us. No reason to change now. It's not a matter of, well, we're going to put a player in here, a player in there. It's, boys, you got us here, now you just got to get it done.”
Heading into Game 6, that’s exactly what Cooper and his team needs to hope for: his players to get it done. If they don’t, it’ll be the end of the Stanley Cup final and the Chicago Blackhawks will capture their third Stanley Cup in six seasons.