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Point to return for Lightning against Maple Leafs

Center missed first three games after offseason hip surgery @NHLdotcom

TORONTO -- Brayden Point will make his season debut for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, SNO, SUN, NHL.TV).

The center, who missed the Lightning's first three games recovering from offseason hip surgery, practiced in full for the second straight day Wednesday, skating on a line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, and took part in the morning skate Thursday after being medically cleared to play.

"It was long, there was a lot going on, but I'm happy that's all behind me now," he said. "I'm looking forward to playing some hockey."

Point began practicing without a noncontact jersey days before the season began; the original timetable for his return was late October.

"We haven't had Point at all so it's going to be different for him with this being his first game," coach Jon Cooper said after the morning skate.

Point, who had an NHL career-high 92 points (41 goals, 51 assists) last season, signed a three-year, $20.25 million contract (average annual value $6.75 million) on Sept. 23.

With Point, Stamkos and Kucherov, Tampa Bay (1-1-1) would have three players on the same line who had at least 40 goals and 90 points last season; Kucherov led the NHL with 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists), and Stamkos had an NHL career-high 98 points (45 goals, 53 assists).

"He drives the play a lot with his speed, and I know he's been itching to get back in the lineup," Stamkos said. "He hasn't played a game in a long time, so he's excited."

Cooper kept Point and Stamkos on separate lines for much of last season, but with Stamkos' move to left wing, they would be reunited. Cooper wasn't ready to say if that would be permanent.

"It will be a bit of a feeling-out process for everybody," he said. "Let's see how we play and just grow from here."

The Lightning are carrying 12 forwards as they continue their six-game road trip. Gemel Smith was sent to Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Tuesday.

Center Cedric Paquette is skating on his own and remains week to week with an upper-body injury, Cooper said. Paquette was injured in Tampa Bay's final preseason game against the Florida Panthers on Sept. 28. independent correspondents Corey Long and Dave McCarthy contributed to this story


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