“There’s no replacing Kuch,” said Steven Stamkos, the Lightning captain. “He’s had an unbelievable playoffs for us.”
He was terrific last year, too, when he had 7 goals and 27 assists in the championship run. But it was a costly effort: Pain from a strained groin muscle migrated to his hip, requiring surgery on Dec. 29 and causing Kucherov to miss all 56 games of the regular season before rejoining the team for the playoffs.
Jon Cooper, the Lightning coach, did not indicate whether Kucherov would be available for Game 7, but seemed prepared to make alternate plans.
“We played 56 games without him,” Cooper said. “Usually, we have 12 forwards when we play without him, so that probably made it tougher on us when we had 11. But we’ve gone down this path for four months. It’s nothing new for us.”
For the Islanders, the victory means that Nassau Coliseum could host more Islander games after all. The team, which has been playing in the old concrete bunker since 1972, will move into a swanky new arena in Elmont next season, but if they win on Friday, they will play on in their ancestral home.
But if they lose Game 7, the final scenes of Islander hockey at the Coliseum will be of beer cans hurtling onto the ice while the players below celebrated a dramatic win. Trotz, who was the coach of the Washington Capitals when they won the Stanley Cup in 2018, has been coaching in the N.H.L. for 22 years.
He said Wednesday’s win ranked up there with some of the best for a variety of reasons, including the win-or-die situation, his affection for this team, the fans and even for the arena with all of its history as host to decades of Islander teams with Hall of Fame players and four championship banners.
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