Brayden Point is a game-time decision for the Tampa Bay Lightning for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Islanders at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
The center missed a 2-1 double-overtime loss in Game 5 on Tuesday because he was unfit to play.
The Lightning lead the best-of-7 series and remain one win from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final to play the Dallas Stars.
After Point missed a 5-3 loss in Game 3 because he was unfit to play, he returned with a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win in Game 4 on Sunday in Edmonton, the hub city for the conference finals and Cup Final. But he left the game after being hit by Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech with 9:51 remaining in the third period.
The Lightning lost each game Point has missed in the series. Coach Jon Cooper said there are many factors to consider when it comes to the decision of whether Point should play.
“There’s a difference between injured and being hurt,” Cooper said. “There’s a difference between when you’re fighting through pain on an injury that it can’t get any worse or you’re fighting through something that if you do one wrong thing, this could linger on longer and longer. There’s some many different variables [that] go into it, and those are what you have to manage and the player has to manage. But like I said, you don’t want to … guys can get hurt at any time, but in the end, they all want to play.
“That’s where you’ve got to take the player and the medical advice and everything into account and go from there. The other thing is too is if it’s Game 25 of the regular season or if it’s Game 6 of the conference final, I think those are probably weighed a little differently as well. But in the end, and I said it yesterday, it’s the player that we care about the most. If we’re going to put the player in harm’s way, we will not play him. But if they do play, then it’s justified why they’re playing because we’ve gone through all the steps. But like I said, we’re always looking after the player first.”
Point has scored 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 16 games to share the NHL postseason lead with teammate Nikita Kucherov (six goals, 19 assists in 18 games) and Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche (nine goals, 16 assists in 15 games). Point has scored seven points (three goals, four assists) in three games in the conference final, including five points (two goals, three assists) in an 8-2 Game 1 win.
Forward Tyler Johnson said the Lightning will take the same approach to Game 6, with or without Point.
“Obviously, Brayden Point‘s a big part of our team. He’s an unreal player, but I don’t think we change our structure, I don’t think we change our game plan,” Johnson said. “We stick to what’s been working and we’ve been generating a lot of chances and getting the pucks on net. Try to use our ‘D,’ get them involved, basically playing five guys on offense. Regardless of who’s in the lineup, we always try to play the same way. That’s just what we need to focus on.”