Nikita Kucherov skates with Lightning for first time since injury

·2 min read

BOSTON — Nikita Kucherov is not expected to return to the Lightning lineup until the new year, but the forward took a significant step Saturday in his recovery from a lower-body injury.

Kucherov skated with teammates following their morning drills before that night’s game against the Bruins, the first time he had done so since his last game, Oct. 16 against the Capitals.

He had surgery Oct. 26 and was expected to be out eight to 10 weeks.

Kucherov was cleared to skate last week. Coach Jon Cooper said Thursday that Kucherov likely wouldn’t be back until the new year.

Cooper said Saturday that Kucherov’s participation didn’t mean the timetable for his return had been accelerated.

“He came in after the (morning) skate, so he’s got to get on the ice at some point,” Cooper said. “It has not triggered anything new on his timeline. He’s still quite a ways off, but it’s great to have him out here with the guys.”

During the game against the Capitals, Kucherov skated toward the boards for the puck, then hunched over in discomfort and grabbed his groin area. He struggled to skate to the bench.

Kucherov missed the last regular season while recovering from offseason hip surgery to repair a labrum injury, then returned for the playoffs. He led the postseason with 32 points in 23 games to help the Lightning win the Stanley Cup for the second straight season.

That labrum injury began as a groin tweak Kucherov suffered during the Lightning’s Stanley Cup run in 2020.

The Lightning also remain without top-line center Brayden Point, sidelined with an upper-body injury after crashing into the boards with his left shoulder during a Nov. 20 game against the Devils. He is expected to be out until roughly early January.

Second-line forward Mathieu Joseph missed his third straight game Saturday with an upper-body injury.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.

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