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Nikita Kucherov misses Thursday's game with illness

Lightning leading scorer missed game against Red Wings on Thursday night

by Bryan Burns /

The Tampa Bay Lightning were without leading scorer Nikita Kucherov when the team hosted the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night. 

Kucherov did not come out of the locker room with the rest of his teammates for pregame warmups. Shortly after, the Lightning announced Kucherov is sick and missed Thursday's critical game against the Red Wings.

Kucherov's absence is a major blow for the Bolts, who are trying to climb back into a playoff spot with seven games remaining in the regular season. Tampa Bay is already without captain Steven Stamkos and center Tyler Johnson, who are both close to returning but won't play tonight versus Detroit. The Lightning are also without the services of Cedric Paquette (lower-body injury) and Jason Garrison (lower-body injury).

Kucherov paces the Lightning for goals (38) and scoring (80) and has been the NHL's top scorer since February 21, notching 17 goals and 14 assists over 17 games. Kucherov has set career highs for goals, assists (42) and points this season.

On Monday versus Chicago, Kucherov tallied two assists, giving him 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in March to pass Steven Stamkos (12-9-21 in November 2010) for most points all-time in a single month by a Lightning player.

The Lightning begin tonight three points behind Boston but with a game in hand for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference and trailing Toronto by four points for third place in the Atlantic Division.  

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