TAMPA– Brayden Point was a full participant when the Tampa Bay Lightning practiced Monday, but the forward’s status remains unknown for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena in Denver on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, ABC, CBC, SN, VAT).
Point, who has missed 10 games since sustaining a lower-body injury in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 14, practiced on the third line with forwards Nicholas Paul and Ross Colton. It was Point’s first time with with the full team after skating on his own or with the Lightning’s extra players for nearly two weeks, but assistant Jeff Halpern said he didn’t know if that meant he is closer to being ready to play.
“I don’t even know if it’s at that point yet medically,” Halpern said. “A lot of times we get in touch with the guys on the ice and that’s when we see them, but I don’t know where he is in that and I don’t know if today was any indication. It was a pretty easy skate.”
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper did not speak with the media Monday. After the Lightning advanced to the Cup Final with a 2-1 victory against the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Saturday, Cooper said he was optimistic that Point will be able to return at some point against the Avalanche.
“I don’t know about the probability of Game 1,” Cooper said, “but it’s extremely probable that he will play in the series.”
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Although the Lightning are 8-2 without Point, his return would provide a boost in their bid to defeat the Avalanche and win the Stanley Cup for the third consecutive season.
Point led the NHL with 14 goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2020 and 2021, and his 30 playoff goals in 53 games are most in the League over the past three seasons. Point had four points (two goals, two assists) in seven games this postseason before he was injured, including the overtime goal in a 4-3 victory in Game 6 against the Maple Leafs.
“Obviously, no one wanted that to happen to ‘Pointer,’ but just seeing him on the ice, seeing that there is hope that he could potentially be in, that brings some confidence,” Lightning forward Brandon Hagel said. “Obviously, everybody knows what he’s done the past two years, so whether he’s 80 percent or 100 percent, he’s still a class act, him coming out there, and hopefully at some point he’s ready.”
The Lightning have been playing with the hope that if they went far enough in the playoffs, Point would be able to return. They’ve now extended their season far enough that it appears possible.
“When you go down, especially when you’re a key player, and they tell you it depends on how long we go if you have a chance to play again this season, that obviously [stinks]Tampa Bay forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. “So, to see him now, and he’s been a part of the process, he’s been there at the end of every game and sometimes between periods to give you positive words, and to have him be able to have a chance to be back in at this time of the year, this is the time. This is why we play the game, to be able to play in June. This is what you want.”
Forward Corey Perry did not practice Monday, and Halpern did not provide an update. The forward has eight points (five goals, three assists) in 17 games this postseason.