NEW YORK — Lightning center Brayden Point continues to make his way back from a lower-body injury, but coach Jon Cooper said Point won’t return for tonight’s Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final.
Point was a full participant in the optional morning skate at Madison Square Garden, and he also worked in post-skate group drills. Given that he’s been out with an apparent right leg/hip injury, he skated well, particularly when making cuts.
Cooper opened his pregame media availability by saying if Point plays “he’s going to be ready to play. He’s not ready to play right now.”
The Lightning have been without Point since he was injured in Game 7 of the first-round playoff series against Toronto. The Lightning need to be assured that Point will be ready for the intensity of playoff hockey.
“You’ve got to be able to go out and be effective, not just go out there and go through the motions,” said defenseman Ryan McDonagh. “This is playoff hockey. It’s different than regular season. It’s faster, more intense. You’ve got to be honest with yourself.”
“We know (Point’s) going to do whatever he can,” McDonagh added. “Whenever he says he’s good to go, we’ll obviously welcome him back with open arms. He’s been a huge part of our team’s success the last few years, no doubt about that.”
Meanwhile, the Lightning return to New York realizing they have to win at least one game on the road to capture what is now a best-of-three series. The Rangers have won eight straight games at Madison Square Garden. And while it seemed like the Lightning needed time to get their legs and lungs back in Games 1 and 2 following a long layoff, Cooper said he knows his team will need more than what they showed in their past two wins at home.
“In the end, you have to win on the road,” Cooper said. “That’s the bottom line. We have an opportunity tonight to do that, but it’s going to take everything we have and probably more to be able to get through and win a game on the road.”
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