Nikita Kucherov, who led the 2020 NHL playoffs in scoring in helping the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup crown, will miss the regular season with a hip injury, the team said Wednesday.
The Lightning said Kucherov will have surgery next week, and he could be able to return for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs after the shortened regular season concludes on May 8.
"Our hope, and it's a realistic hope, based on the expected timeline of recovery for this type of surgery, is that he would be ready for the playoffs," Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said.
Kucherov played through a groin injury as he led the NHL with 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) in 25 post-season games to help Tampa Bay win the Stanley Cup in the pandemic-disrupted season.
"No one loves playing hockey more than Nikita Kucherov. I know how much it pains him that he will be missing the regular season. I also know how hard he's going to work to get back as soon as possible."
The news came on the same day that the NHL released the upcoming regular season schedule -- which will open on January 13 with five games.
That includes the Lightning raising their second Stanley Cup banner before hosting the Chicago Blackhawks.
The other four games on the first night include the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Philadelphia Flyers, the Montreal Canadiens at the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Vancouver Canucks at the Edmonton Oilers and the St. Louis Blues at the Colorado Avalanche.
Each team will play 56 games -- down from the usual 80 games -- as the NHL like other sports aims to get back on track after the coronavirus-disrupted 2019-20 season even as the virus remains rampant in the United States.
The shortened regular season is to be followed by a traditional format post-season with four rounds of seven-game series.