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Lightning’s Kucherov to miss 8-10 weeks following procedure for lower-body injury

Nikita Kucherov Injury

TAMPA, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 12: Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning warms up during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena on October 12, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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The Tampa Bay Lightning are once again going to be without Nikita Kucherov, their top offensive player, for a significant portion of the season.

The team announced on Wednesday that Kucherov underwent a procedure for a lower-body injury that is going to sideline him for the next 8-10 weeks.

That timeline will presumably keep him out of the lineup for all of November and December and should allow for him to return sometime around January or February.

He has been sidelined since the team’s Oct. 16 game against the Washington Capitals, and it was anticipated that his absence was going to be significant. Now we know exactly how significant.

Being without Kucherov is not exactly a new experience or development for the Lightning given the way the 2020-21 season played out. Kucherov missed the entire regular season after undergoing offseason surgery and was able to return for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs where he once again played a key role in a championship run, leading the league in postseason scoring.

Even without him in the lineup the Lightning were still able to put together a successful regular season and easily qualify for the playoffs.

Given that this injury is not as severe and the timeline not as long, it would be easy to assume that the Lightning can manage through this as well. But this year’s team is not quite as deep as the 2020-21 team following the offseason departures of Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, Yanni Gourde, and Tyler Johnson. That is four significant players gone (including the entire third line that was one of the league’s best groups) on top of Kucherov being sidelined. That is a significant hit to their depth.

The Lightning are already off to a slow start this season with a 3-3-1 record through seven games, while Tuesday’s 5-1 win in Pittsburgh was the first time all season they actually held a lead during regulation (their previous two wins were overtime wins where they never actually played with a lead).