The Stanley Cup Finals is in full swing with the Colorado Avalanche sporting a 2-1 lead heading into their second game in Tampa Bay. The Lightning stormed back in Game 3, winning 6-2 after losing both matchups in the Mile High City, but took a key loss on the ice when stud forward Nikita Kucherov when down in the third period.
Nikita Kucherov Injury Update - Tampa Bay Lightning
The forward was cross-checked illegally by Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews into the boards, and after staying in, the Russian hobbled to the locker room. The defenseman was awarded just a two-minute minor although many voiced their displeasure over the hit, including Lightning head coach John Cooper, who appeared frustrated and commented at the postgame presser “We all saw it."
By video analysis from our panel of Pro Sports Docs with decades of expertise, the mechanism of injury fits with a likely left high ankle/MCL sprain with a lean towards a mild ankle injury. Of course he stayed in for a shift as most hockey players are known to do after injury but eventually made his way to the Tampa Bay training room and did not return. With the injury happening so late in the game, there wasn't much time for Kucherov to return and his team was already well ahead when the injury initially occurred.
His team will play Game 4 at home and although swelling will occur, this is the Stanley Cup Finals, meaning Kucherov has every incentive to push through.
Unlike the regular season, team doctors do in fact travel with the team during the playoffs, meaning Kucherov will have the staff ready for him as he will likely need a pregame injection. Although mild, we believe Kucherov will be ineffective if he goes without an injection and if this was the regular season he would likely miss 2-3 weeks.
If the injury is in fact mild, he will likely return with an injection, but if the issue is severe enough, it will be much difficult to inject. Regardless, we expect the star forward to play through said injury.
Brayden Point Injury Update - Tampa Bay Lightning
Fellow offensive partner in crime, Brayden Point, has been hampered the majority of the playoffs with what our Pro Sports Docs believe is either a right hip flexor strain or at worst a proximal quad tear in the Game 7 first round win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He missed the last two series before playing in the first two games of the Finals but played poorly, with the usual smooth skater looking slow and immobile.
He missed Game 3 and is listed as doubtful for Game 4. There is a chance the stud misses the rest of the series as they have took their time with him and don't have much progress to show.
Nazem Kadri Injury Update - Colorado Avalanche
As reported at sicscore.com, star Colorado center Nazam Kadri suffered a thumb injury after being taken down near the boards, subsequently undergoing thumb surgery.
Our panel of Pro Sports Docs opined that if the thumb injury is a fracture, he will miss the Finals. If the surgery was an UCL reconstruction, combined with the fact it's his top hand, we believe he could return in the middle of the series. We are at that point currently with practice videos being released of Kadri shooting in non-contact drills.
We believe he is not yet close and this could be a moral boosting stunt to show his teammates he is making a comeback, we lean toward the injury being a fracture, so expect Kadri to be sidelined until next season.
Which Team is Healthier?
In summary, both teams are dealing with key star injuries but after the Kucherov injury, the scale leans toward Colorado. The Avalanche have learned to play without Kadri these last few matchups due to their incredible depth down the middle. However, the Lightning will be hard pressed to replace Kucherov's production if he can't play at his usual level.
Combined with the Point absence, the Lightning will be missing a huge chuck of their offense, meaning they will continue to rely on future Hall-of-Famer Steven Stamkos.
Due to the recent Lightning injury, the Avalanche hold the healthier squad going forward.