After crashing into the boards awkwardly late in the first period of Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Point had to be helped off the ice by Victor Hedman as he was clearly favoring his right leg.
Point did return to the bench for the start of the second period, but after struggling to skate shortly into his first stint he returned to the bench as it was clear that he could go no further.
With coach Jon Cooper stating Monday that Point will be doubtful for Game 1, and day-to-day thereafter, it is reasonable to expect that he could miss at least part of the series.
Monday’s practice lines should give us some insight into how the Bolts will look to mitigate Point’s absence from the lineup.
Plan A for the forward lines looks like it will involve moving the centers, Anthony Cirelli and Nick Paul, up a line and potentially having Ross Colton take more draws after predominantly playing on the wing thus far.
On the power play, given that Riley Nash was inserted into Point’s position, I think we can expect Corey Perry will be the first choice for replacing Point. Perry, a right-handed shot, will keep a deceptive pass to the bumper position open for Nikita Kucherov when he’s moving the puck from the right half-wall.
As for who draws into the lineup, here is a look at some of the options the team could deploy while Point is unable to suit up:
11 Forwards & 7 Defensemen
A Jon Cooper specialty could be in order for the Bolts as Jan Rutta has found himself on the outside looking in since Game 2 against Toronto. Cal Foote and Zach Bogosian have been impressive enough to not consider removing them from the lineup, but Point’s absence could be the right opportunity to work Rutta back into the mix.
Rutta’s proven versatility to be paired with any of the team’s 3 left-defensemen would go a long way in keeping the Lightning’s blue-line fresh in what should be a fast-paced and physical series.
Riley Nash is the Only Extra Forward with the Team
As the only extra forward with the Lightning, Nash figures to be first in line should Cooper choose to insert an additional forward into the lineup. The 33-year-old trade deadline acquisition played 10 games with the Bolts between December and January before being claimed off waivers by Arizona. Additionally, Nash has the experience of 34 NHL Playoff games in his career split between his time with Boston and Columbus.
Syracuse Has Options If Needed
Should neither of the two aforementioned options satisfy the team’s needs, there will be more forward options for the team to call upon from the Syracuse Crunch.
Gemel Smith and Gabriel Dumont both have experience playing as depth forwards on the Lightning for Jon Cooper and would be natural fits for playoff style hockey in a limited role.
Remi Elie and Anthony Richard have been among the Crunch’s best players in their first-round playoff series, with each bringing a different toolset to work with. 27-year-old Elie, 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, would be a big hard-working body to insert in the lineup. He did play one game with Tampa this season, with that game coming against the Panthers at the end of December. 25-year-old Richard, 5-foot-10 and 163 pounds, is a capable defensive forward and also among the fastest skaters the Lightning have under contract. With this series expected to be fast-paced, Richard’s speed could be desirable.
Looking at potential prospect options, Alex Barre-Boulet is still the team’s most skilled prospect. Gabriel Fortier recorded 10 games of experience with the team back in December and proved himself as defensively reliable. And Cole Koepke, yet to make his NHL debut, could be a sneaky good option to play in a pinch – similar to Alexander Volkov’s playoff debut in 2020.
Second-Round Predictions from Bolts By The Bay Writers
Noah: Lightning in 7
Stephen: Lightning in 7
Henry: Lightning in 6
Looking back at the first-round, Henry was a little too optimistic on how quickly the Lightning would close out the series and remains the most optimistic of the bunch this time. Noah and I are once again predicting this series to go the distance. Last season’s series went six games, but Point’s injury and the Panthers’ top defenseman, Aaron Ekblad, being healthy this time around should make this one a nailbiter.