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Kucherov, Stamkos and Cirelli all return to Lightning practice

Cooper: "It'd be nice to get them all back, but we won't rush them back until they're all ready."

by Bryan Burns @BBurnsNHL /

Tampa Bay didn't miss a beat with its leading scorer, its captain and arguably its top two-way forward out of the lineup for Thursday's 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers, the Lightning continuing their standout defensive play coupled with an opportunistic offensive attack.

And it appears one, two or maybe even all three will be back when the Lightning host the Philadelphia Flyers for an afternoon game at AMALIE Arena Saturday (4 p.m. puck drop).

Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Anthony Cirelli all skated with the Lightning during Friday's practice at the TGH Ice Plex and were full participants. Kucherov and Stamkos reunited with Brayden Point on the Bolts' top line.

Kucherov and Stamkos were back in their usual spots on Tampa Bay's top power-play unit too.

Cirelli skated with Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn on Tampa Bay's second line.

Video: Cooper on Bolts injury updates

Asked if he might have all three forwards available for the game against the Flyers, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said the team will have to wait until tomorrow to know for sure.

"We knew it wasn't going to be long term," Cooper said. "It'd be nice to get them all back, but we won't rush them back until they're all ready."

Stamkos had posted points in 10-straight games before being sidelined for three-straight games this week with a lower-body injury. The Lightning captain and team's second leading scorer (26 goals, 59 points) said the issue is something he's been dealing with for a while and got to a point where he just couldn't go anymore.

"It's been a work in progress," Stamkos said. "Hopefully tomorrow when I wake up it still feels good and we'll go from there."

Kucherov missed the victory over Edmonton after sustaining a lower-body injury late in the second period in a 2-1 overtime win in Pittsburgh two nights earlier. Kucherov tallied an assist against the Penguins to extend his point streak to a career long-tying 12 games before exiting. He leads the Bolts in goals (27), assists (43) and scoring (70 pts.).

Video: Cirelli on skating with the team today

Cirelli was sidelined after blocking a shot earlier in the second period in Pittsburgh. He said initially he feared the worst after limping to the bench.

"I was in a lot of pain there," he said. "The trainers did a good job of seeing how they could help me and been working with them pretty hard the past couple days. To be able to be out there with the guys for practice was pretty good."

Cirelli answered "maybe" when asked if there was a chance he could play against Philly.

"I've got to talk to the training staff and see what they're saying," he said. "First practice back, felt pretty good out there."

The news wasn't entirely positive from Friday's practice, however. Tyler Johnson did not skate with the team and, according to Cooper, will be a game-time decision as to whether he can play against the Flyers. Johnson has 13 goals and 27 points in 52 games this season for the Lightning.

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