Cooper: Point playing in Eastern Conference Final would be 'a bonus'

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Jon Cooper doesn't appear to expect injured star Brayden Point back during this round of the playoffs.

"We're planning to play without him," the Tampa Bay Lightning head coach said Wednesday, according to team beat writer Chris Krenn. "If he gets to play in this series, that's a bonus for everybody."

Cooper made it clear the Lightning aren't sure when the talented forward will be ready to return.

"Pointer's playing hockey again. We just don't know if it's this season, next season, this round," he said. "If we're fortunate enough to win this round, can he play the next one? We don't know that. Is he improving daily? He is.

"It's way too soon to tell now if he's going to be able to play or not," Cooper added. "I think the worst of it is over for him now … (but) I would temper any of the expectations of him coming back at all."

The two-time defending champion Lightning face the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final beginning Wednesday night. Point hasn't played since sustaining an apparent leg injury in Game 7 of Tampa Bay's first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He couldn't put any pressure on his right leg at the time.

Point skated in equipment Wednesday for the first time since the incident and gave his team another scare when he fell during the session. However, Cooper said the 26-year-old is fine, and the residual effect from the fall was "more embarrassment than anything."

The six-year veteran produced two goals and two assists across the seven games of the opening round - including the overtime winner in Game 6 - after racking up 28 markers and 30 helpers over 66 regular-season contests.

Point ranked second on the Bolts in goal-scoring this campaign. He's suited up for all six seasons with Tampa Bay, playing a key role on the Lightning's Stanley Cup championship squads in 2020 and 2021.

Cooper: Point playing in Eastern Conference Final would be 'a bonus'
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