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Lightning's Kucherov questionable for Game 6

by Shawn Roarke

CHICAGO -- Forward Nikita Kucherov traveled to Chicago with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday, but his status for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday remains unknown (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

"He was on the plane," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "I would say he's much along the lines of Ben Bishop and how he was (before Game 5). We'll have an optional skate tomorrow, so don't read anything into it if he's not on the ice.

"He's in considerably better shape today than he was last night. To be honest, I thought there was a chance he was coming back last night. But it didn't work out. These two days will give him the rest he needs."

Bishop, the Tampa Bay goalie, missed Game 4 with an unspecified injury but played in Game 5 after two days of rest. His status was not determined, however, until he took part in the morning skate prior to Game 5.

It likely will be a similar scenario for Kucherov because the Lightning did not practice Sunday after arriving here.

Kucherov, 21, was injured Saturday in the first period of Game 5 at Amalie Arena when he tripped awkwardly over Chicago goalie Corey Crawford and crashed shoulder-first into the goal post. He left the ice in pain and did not return. The Blackhawks won the game 2-1.

If Kucherov is unable to play, it will be a big blow for the Lightning, who trail the best-of-7 series 3-2 and must win Monday at United Center to avoid elimination.

Kucherov is second on the Lightning in goals (10), assists (12), points (22), power-play goals (three) and game-winning goals (three) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Linemate Tyler Johnson's 13 goals and 23 points lead the playoffs.

"Obviously [Kucherov] has been a huge part of why we've been successful," Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said. "A clutch player, scored some big goals. Very good player. Hopefully he's back.

"But we found a way to come back in a game that we were down one and tie it, give ourselves a chance. Every game could have gone either way this series. That's the beauty of this sport, how close the series really is. We're hoping that he's back. If not, we have guys that are capable. We've proved that before. We just got to keep believing that."

Cooper said that Bishop came through Game 5 without further aggravating the unspecified injury and should be fine for Monday.

"He was fine; he felt much better," Cooper said. "I thought he played an exceptional game. We're sitting here giving up two goals or less a game. You can't ask for much more than that from your goaltenders. We've got to start putting a few pucks in the net. But he's feeling much better."

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