Brayden Point‘s status for the Tampa Bay Lightning remains unclear heading into 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).
Tampa Bay did not practice Wednesday, and coach Jon Cooper said he did not know when Point will be available to play after the center missed a 2-1 double-overtime loss in Game 5 on Tuesday because he was unfit to play.
“In this situation, I’m hoping it’s not the last time we’re going to see [Point], and we might be able to see him as early as tomorrow night. I don’t have the answer for that,” Cooper said. “But … we put the player first and then we just go from there.”
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, but Cooper said Tampa Bay won’t rush him back.
“You don’t want to put guys in a position where they’re not going to be productive,” Cooper said. “Anytime in my history of when guys have been hurt, they don’t play the same way. So sometimes you have to protect them from themselves.”
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 (two goals, three assists) in an 8-2 Game 1 win.