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Nikita Kucherov likely back vs. Montreal tonight

Nikita Kucherov missed Thursday's game versus Detroit due to illness but will likely return to the lineup tonight

by Bryan Burns /

Kucherov: Pregame TBL vs. MTL

Kucherov on inspiration from Stamkos

Nikita Kucherov speaks to the media on Steven Stamkos inspiring him before Saturday night's matchup with the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena

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Tampa Bay Lightning leading scorer Nikita Kucherov missed Thursday's game versus Detroit due to illness but will likely return to the lineup when the Bolts host the Atlantic Division-leading Montreal Canadiens tonight.

Kucherov was a full participant in the Lightning's morning skate on Saturday and was back on the Bolts' top line with Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point. Following the skate, Kucherov said he was feeling "good" without elaborating.

Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said it looks like Kucherov will be able to return for the Bolts' critical game against the Canadiens.

"Hopefully, he's a go tonight," Cooper said. "He should be alright."

Kucherov was named the NHL's First Star for March today after recording a league-best 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) during the month. Kucherov's 22 points set a Lightning franchise record for most points all-time in a single month, passing Steven Stamkos' 21-point effort in November 2010.

Beyond Kucherov, however, the Lightning's injury situation remains status quo.

Cooper said Steven Stamkos (recovering from knee surgery), Tyler Johnson (lower-body injury), Jason Garrison (lower-body injury) and Cedric Paquette (lower-body injury) will all be out of the lineup again tonight. Johnson and Stamkos participated in Tampa Bay's morning skate on Saturday. Garrison and Paquette did not.

Cooper seemed doubtful whether Johnson or Stamkos could return Sunday when the Lightning host the Dallas Stars in the second game of a back-to-back set at AMALIE Arena because of the quick turnaround but suggested the pair might make an appearance when the Bolts go on a three-game road trip starting Tuesday in Boston.

"It's tough," Cooper said. "They're not playing tonight, and then we have to turn around and play tomorrow but maybe that road trip could be a chance some of those guys come back."

Video: Hedman on Bolts' push for playoffsHEDMAN GRABS RECORD: With his assist in Thursday's Lightning win over Detroit, Victor Hedman passed Roman Hamrlik for most points in a season all-time by a Bolts defenseman. Hedman recorded his 66th point against the Red Wings to move ahead of Hamrlik, who put up 65 points during the 1995-1996 season.

Hedman still has six regular season games remaining to add to his mark.

"To get that record is very special to me," Hedman said. "It's a big milestone, but, obviously the biggest thing coming out of that game was that we got two points. It's an accomplishment I'm obviously proud of."

Hedman has been one of Tampa Bay's top producers of late, tallying four assists over the last four games. Hedman has points in 15 of his last 21 games, notching eight goals and 16 assists over that stretch.

Hedman paces the NHL for power-play assists (28) and ranks second in the league for power-play points (4-28-32) behind only Washington's Nicklas Backstrom (8-26-34).

Video: Gourde on offensive contributionsYANNI LIVE: Lightning rookie forward Yanni Gourde is on his first goal streak in the NHL with markers in two straight games. Gourde netted the Bolts' fifth goal in their 5-3 victory over Detroit on Thursday and provided the overtime game-winner in their come-from-behind win against the Western Conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks Monday night.

"It's fun to be a part of the offensive part of this game and it's fun to be just part of it," Gourde said. "We've been playing very good and we got the two points last game so that was the most important thing."

Cooper said it's been a delight watching Gourde, along with fellow youngsters Adam Erne, Jake Dotchin and Joel Vermin, step up and produce in the absence of some of the Bolts' more established stars.

"It's on him how long this is going to last, but he continues to give me reasons to put him on the ice," Cooper said about Gourde. "Then you couple that with he's a phenomenal kid and he still just wants to learn and get better. It's guys like him are a big reason why we're still hanging around."

Video: Cooper on Bolts' matchup with MTLICE CHIPS: Andrei Vasilevskiy was the first Lightning goaltender off the ice from today's morning skate, meaning he will likely make his fourth-straight start when the Bolts host Montreal…The Lightning have scored multiple power-play goals in consecutive games, and Cooper suggested a big reason for the Bolts' power-play success is their shoot-first mentality. "I just think when you shoot the puck, good things happen and that's what's been happening for us of late."…Tampa Bay has surrendered the opening goal its last seven games, going 4-3-0 over that stretch…The Lightning can set a season high for consecutive wins with a victory tonight over Montreal, which would be their fifth in a row.

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