Lightning star Nikita Kucherov ‘ready to go’ Thursday vs. Flames

The two-time defending Stanley Cup-champion Tampa Bay Lightning enter action on Thursday with the best record in the NHL at 22-8-5. Now, they’re set to get back one of the best offensive weapons in the game.

Kucherov missed the entire 2020-2021 regular season after undergoing hip surgery but returned for last year’s Stanley Cup run.

The first seven years of Kucherov’s career were filled with big-time numbers and loads of accolades. The 28-year-old led the NHL with a plus/minus of 38 during the 2014-2015 season, and he led all skaters with 17 power-play goals in the 2016-2017 campaign.

Kucherov’s best output came during his 2018-2019 season though, as he led the NHL in assists (87) and points (128) on his way to earning the Hart Memorial Trophy, Art Ross Trophy and the Ted Linday Award at the end of the year. Kucherov also made four consecutive All-Star teams from 2016 through 2020 and has racked up 222 goals and 329 assists for 551 points across 518 career games.

The wing has led the NHL in playoff scoring in each of the last two postseasons, collecting 34 points during the Lightning’s run to the 2020 title and 32 points in the 2021 Stanley Cup run.