The Tampa Bay Lightning will not have suspended forward Nikita Kucherov in the lineup for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVAS, FS-O, SUN).
Already trailing the best-of-7 series, the Lightning will have more adversity to face without Kucherov, suspended one game by the NHL Department of Player Safety for boarding Blue Jackets defenseman Markus Nutivaara at 15:34 of the third period of a 5-1 loss in Game 2 on Friday. Kucherov, the NHL's leading scorer this season (128 points; 41 goals, 87 assists), was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct.
"We know what to do if everybody's in," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Saturday before Kucherov's suspension was announced. "If he's not in, then we have to change things up a little bit."
Kucherov is expected to be replaced by forward Ryan Callahan, a healthy scratch for Games 1 and 2. Callahan played in the regular-season finale against the Boston Bruins but left with an undisclosed injury. He is fully healthy now, Cooper said.
Callahan, who had 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 52 games this season, has extensive Stanley Cup Playoff experience with 39 points (20 goals, 19 assists) in 119 games. He played in the Cup Final with the Lightning in 2015 and has played in the Eastern Conference Final four times, three with Tampa Bay and once with the New York Rangers.