Nikita Kucherov injury update: Tampa Bay Lightning forward leaves game following blocked shot
The Tampa Bay Lightning were forced to battle without their top scorer on Saturday when Nikita Kucherov left the game in the second period after taking a shot off the top of the foot.Kucherov went to the locker room immediately following the blocked shot. The 26-year-old forward did not return to the bench at the start of the third period before the team officially announced him as out for the remainder of the contest during the final frame. MORE: Tyson Barrie leaves game against Oilers after blocked shotKucherov heads to the locker room after taking a Carlson shot off the leg pic.twitter.com/atWJDaomZf— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 15, 2019His final shift lasted just 19 seconds due to the injury, leaving the ice for the final time at 10:29 of the second period. The Russian superstar left the with the score knotted at one before the Lightning gave up back-to-back scores to open the third. Down 3-1, Tampa Bay’s Jan Rutta was able to get one back, but T.J. Oshie extended the lead back to two goals with 7:41 remaining. The Caps added an empty-netter to make the final score 5-2.MORE: Taylor Hall is healthy scratch for Devils as trade rumors riseThis is not the first time Kucherov has been forced to miss time due to injury in the 2019-20 season. He missed one game with an upper-body injury after a hit from Brayden Schenn forced him out of the contest against the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 19. The 2019 Hart Trophy winner leads the team with 34 points on 10 goals and 24 assists this season, including a secondary assist on the Lightning’s first goal of the contest, a Brayden Point score 5:45 into the second period.Despite leading the team, Kucherov is far off pace to reach the career-high numbers he hit last season (41 goals and 87 assists). He is set to net just 27 goals and dish 65 helpers this season. From a teamwide standpoint, Tampa Bay looks much less intimidating so far at 16-12-3 than their record-setting 128 points (62-16-4) last season.Should Kucherov miss more time, the Lightning — who sit in fourth in the Atlantic Division — could be in even more trouble as January approaches.