Nikita Kucherov will be out for the 2020-21 NHL regular season for the Tampa Bay Lightning because of hip injury. He will have surgery next week and the Lightning are hopeful he can return in time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The forward, who was placed on long-term injured reserve by Tampa Bay on Wednesday, has been the Lightning’s leading scorer for each of the past five seasons. He scored 85 points (33 goals, 52 assists) in 68 games last season and led the NHL with 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) in 25 postseason games to help Tampa Bay win the Stanley Cup.
“Our hope, and it’s a realistic hope, based on the expected timeline of recovery for this type of surgery, is that he would be ready for the playoffs,” Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said Wednesday. “So those are the cards we’ve been dealt. No one loves playing hockey more than Nikita Kucherov. I know how much it pains him that he will be missing the regular season. I also know how hard he’s going to work to get back as soon as possible. And now it’s our job as a group, players, coaches, management to get ourselves into the playoffs so that we give Kuch an opportunity to compete this year and help us defend the Stanley Cup championship as we’re chasing another one.”
The NHL and NHL Players’ Association formally reached an agreement Sunday to play a 56-game regular season starting Jan. 13, 2021, and ending May 8. The 2020-21 season has been delayed due to continuing concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
In 2018-19, Kucherov won the Hart Trophy voted as NHL MVP and Art Ross Trophy as the League’s leading scorer when he had an NHL career-high 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists) in 82 games.
“It’s not going to be easy,” BriseBois said. “It wasn’t going to be easy even with [Kucherov] in the lineup, and now it’s more of a challenge. But from my conversation with a number of our players over the last few days, although it wasn’t official at the time that Kuch was going to be missing the regular season, the mindset of the players as a whole and the hunger and how excited they are to get a chance to chase another Cup and go back to back, which is a really rare feat in our League and quite the accomplishment, I’ve just been really struck by how positive everyone’s mindset is and I like where everyone’s head is at right now.”
Kucherov has missed four games in the past three seasons and has never played fewer than 74 games in a full NHL season since playing 52 as a rookie in 2013-14.
His 529 points (212 goals, 317 points) in 463 games over the past six seasons are tied with Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane for the most in the NHL through that span.
Kucherov has scored 547 points (221 goals, 326 assists) in 515 NHL games and 95 points (36 goals, 59 assists) in 90 Stanley Cup Playoff games.