Lightning's Stamkos Ruled Out For Start Of Stanley Cup Final
Captain Steven Stamkos is out, Brayden Point is hurting and Anthony Cirelli is hobbling, too.
The Tampa Bay Lightning enter the Stanley Cup Final against the Dallas Stars with several key players dealing with injuries the team somehow was able to withstand during an impressive run to the Eastern Conference championship.
Stamkos, a two-time Richard Trophy winner whos been chasing a NHL title for 12 seasons, has yet to play this postseason because of a lower-body injury.
He finally got on the ice for Game 6 of the East final, but only to celebrate the Lightning advancing to hockeys biggest stage for the first time since 2015.
You need a lot of good players to get to this point. And resiliency, general manager Julien BriseBois said Friday.
Once you have a good enough team to get into the playoffs, its whos going to find a way, BriseBois added. At this point you have two teams that have found a way to get to the Final, and one of us is going to find a way to lift the big trophy.
Stamkos has been skating with teammates, however theres no definitive timetable for his return.
Game 1 is Saturday night.
Hes still rehabbing. We havent ruled him out, BriseBois said. I dont expect him in the lineup (Saturday).
Point was injured during Game 2 of East final against the New York Islanders. He missed Games 3 and 5, while playing at less than 100 percent in Games 4 and 6.
Cirelli, meanwhile, scored the series-clinching goal in overtime Thursday night after earlier appearing to injure his right knee in a second-period collision with Islanders captain Anders Lee.
Cirelli returned in the third period and delivered the winner, as coach Jon Cooper described it, while playing basically on one leg.
Obviously, I was in a little bit of pain there, Cirelli said, but I was fine and was fortunate enough to finish the game.
Point shrugged off a question about how hes feeling.
I think everyone on both sides has something theyre dealing with, Point said. You dont get here without getting dinged up a little bit. Its just about competing.
BISHOP STILL OUT
Injured Stars goaltender Ben Bishop probably isnt getting the net back even if hes healthy given the way Anton Khudobin is playing, and the team still doesnt have an update on him. Bishop skated Thursday, coach Rick Bowness said, and is still rehabbing.
Bens been a big part of our success since hes come here and unfortunately hes injured, general manager Jim Nill said. Were going to take that day by day. But hes a big part, hes been in the dressing room with the guys, hes cheering them on, hes working hard in practice and thats where were at right now.
Also out for Dallas are defenseman Stephen Johns and winger Radek Faksa.
Beyond Bowness facing a team he was an assistant for under Jon Cooper for five years, there are plenty of connections between Dallas and Tampa Bay.
Bishop was the starter for the Lightning in 2015 when they went to the Stanley Cup Final and lost to Chicago and was replaced in net by Andrei Vasilevskiy when he got injured. Tampa Bays Barclay Goodrow and Dallas Joe Pavelski also played together in San Jose and went to the 2016 final. When Pavelski was a free agent in the summer of 2019, the Lightning and Stars were among his final choices, and now hes facing the team he didnt pick in another chance to win it all.
It was one of those moments where if I was going to be leaving San Jose, I wanted to go to a place I was going to have a good chance to win, Pavelski said. One of the things I liked, for me, was just I like the goalies here, I like the structure defensively. … Theres also some high-end talent on this team, as well.
NICE TO BE BACK
Pavelski and Corey Perry both spent well more than a decade with their original NHL teams, facing each other constantly as division rivals.
Perrys NHL debut came with the Anaheim Ducks in 2005-06, a year before they won the Stanley Cup. That championship season for Perry came the same year Pavelski was a rookie with the San Jose Sharks.
Both remained with those West Coast teams until last summer, when both signed with the Dallas Stars in free agency. They sat at a podium together Friday, the day before getting to play in another Stanley Cup Final.
Its been awesome, Pavelski said. We competed against each other for a long time.
The Sharks lost in the Stanley Cup Final four years ago, Pavelskis first season as their captain. This is also Perrys first time back to a final.
Theres lots of battles that weve gone through, Perry said. Theres been a lot of hockey played between us, and its nice to be sitting here beside him right now doing this.
One other team Pavelski considered last summer was Tampa Bay the team the Stars are facing now.
For me, it was one of those moments where if I was going to be leaving San Jose, I wanted to go to a place that was going to have a good chance to win, he said. I identified a few places. There were a few places that had interest, and then we went from there.
AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno and Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report
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