The Tampa Bay Lightning announced after the start of Sunday’s game that Brayden Point was out indefinitely with an upper body injury.
Point was not on the ice for warmups prior to the game, and an announcement of Alex Barre-Boulet being recalled from Syracuse earlier in the day alluded to the forthcoming absence.
Coach Jon Cooper said after the game that there is currently no timeline for Point’s return as the team awaits further evaluation on the injury.
Point had crashed into the boards late in the game Saturday after being tripped on a desperate play by Devils defenseman Ryan Graves attempting to prevent a breakaway opportunity for Point. Even though Point rose from the ice favoring his left arm and shoulder, it was initially hoped that he had escaped without injury since he was able to take his penalty shot and finish the game. However, now it appears it was adrenaline that carried him through the final minutes of the game.
For now, the Lightning are without two of their best forwards, with Nikita Kucherov continuing to miss time, and are down to twelve forwards on the active roster. Kucherov should return prior to the Olympic break, and it is expected that Gemel Smith is nearing a return after suffering an injury in the preseason.
As for how the Bolts intend to replace Point’s production, we saw a good indicator against the Wild as the top lines were organized as:
Killorn – Cirelli – Joseph
Palat – Stamkos – ABB
Cirelli moving back to centering Killorn and Joseph with Stamkos staying at center, but with Palat and Barre-Boulet as wingers, stands to be Cooper’s go-to as the lineup managed to eke out the win against the Minnesota Wild in the shootout.
Barre-Boulet looks to be one of the biggest beneficiaries from any extended Point absence as he was preparing for a stint in the minors, prior to Sunday, after being reassigned to Syracuse on Friday. Naturally after I wrote about his reassignment and parts of his game that he needed to improve on in the minors he returned and immediately scored in his first game back and had a potential goal-saving clear when a puck got behind Brian Elliott in the goal crease.
The likelihood of Barre-Boulet having to pass through waivers, if he is reassigned in the future, is now moot since the need to have him help replace Point’s scoring production takes priority. He will still need to improve on certain aspects of his game, but now will get to work on those aspects with the NHL club.