In the calendar year 2021, Nikita Kucherov has played three regular-season games. His team, the Lightning, have played 63. And now, there’s a good chance he won’t add to his total before New Year’s Day 2022.
After missing the entire 2021 regular season due to offseason hip surgery, Kucherov returned for the postseason and put on a clinic. He scored 32 points in 23 games (eight goals, 24 assists) as the Lightning won their second consecutive Stanley Cup. This season, Kucherov collected four points in three games, netting a goal and three assists in the Lightning’s 7-6 overtime win over the Red Wings on Oct. 14.
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On Wednesday, Tampa Bay announced the star winger underwent surgery and will miss at least two months.
UPDATE: Nikita Kucherov underwent a successful procedure on Tuesday and will miss approximately 8-10 weeks with a lower body injury.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) October 27, 2021
What is Nikita Kucherov’s injury?
For now, the Lightning are coining it as a lower-body injury.
Kucherov last played on Oct. 16 against the Capitals. He left that game in the third period after an awkward collision with Garnet Hathaway near the boards in Washington’s zone. Video of the collision shows Kucherov’s right leg going out to stop; he immediately pulls up and appears to grab his left groin area and is shown to be in considerable pain. The video even shows the Capitals bench trying to help and push him to the Lightning bench.
“It didn’t look good,” captain Steven Stamkos said postgame. “We’re praying that he’s OK.”
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As mentioned, Kucherov did not play during the 2021 regular season. Bryan Burns, Lightning reporter for NHL.com, reported that Kucherov in the spring revealed he pulled a groin muscle during the five-overtime Game 1 win over the Blue Jackets in the 2020 bubble playoffs. He played the rest of the way (scoring 34 points in 25 games), but the impact affected his hip. He had to have it surgically repaired after other methods during the offseason failed. He underwent surgery on Dec. 29, 2020. and did not return to the lineup until the postseason.
How long will Nikita Kucherov be out?
The Lightning announced Kucherov will miss 8-10 weeks, which puts him back either after the Christmas break or after the new year.
Three seasons ago, Kucherov won the Hart and Art Ross Trophies after scoring 128 points in 82 games. In the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season, he posted 85 points in 68 games.
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The Lightning have played a lot of hockey in the last two seasons after going all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Already down their third line of Yanni Gourde (Kraken via expansion draft), Barclay Goodrow (Rangers via trade) and Blake Coleman (Flames via free agency), the team has struggled to find its offense. Losing Kucherov just adds another hole that will need to be filled.
Coach John Cooper’s squad is also a team currently struggling to put up points. As of Wednesday morning, the team is on the outside of the playoff picture with a 3-3-1 record. The Lightning have been outscored 21-26 in their first seven games, with a paltry 13.6 percent power-play efficiency.