Lightning could get Point back vs. Maple Leafs

Field Level Media

The Tampa Bay Lightning could have Brayden Point back in the lineup Thursday night when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 23-year-old was not expected to return until late October after having offseason hip surgery, but he skated on the top line during practice Tuesday with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.

"Just to be part of the practice is exciting," Point said. "It's another step, and I'm excited. I thought I felt pretty good (Tuesday)."

Point had 41 goals and 51 assists last season.

The Lightning and the Maple Leafs are both highly skilled teams that were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season.

The Lightning, who had the best record in the NHL last season with a league-record-tying 62 regular-season wins, were swept in four games by the Columbus Blue Jackets, while the Maple Leafs lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games.

The Maple Leafs won their first two games this season, but blew a 4-1 lead in a shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday and lost 3-2 to the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues Monday night. Both games were at home.

The Lightning have one win in three games and are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday that concerned Stamkos.

"We just continue to be the freewheeling team that thinks we can just come into games and win because we're skilled," Stamkos said after the game. "We keep falling back into the same old bad habits that we've been doing, that cost us the season we had last year. Unless we change things, it's going to be a really, really, really long year."

Lightning center Tyler Johnson echoed Stamkos' concern.

"We have skill, but you don't always need to use that skill," Johnson said. "We try to make those cute plays. We try to make almost Globetrotter plays. In reality, that doesn't win games."

Jason Spezza, an NHL veteran playing in his first season with the Maple Leafs, feels that the team needs stronger work away from the puck to add to its offensive strengths.

"When (the game Monday) got away from us, maybe we didn't get pucks deep enough as we needed to," he said. "But for the most part, we hung with them all night. There were times when we really controlled play out there and if we can bottle that, we'll become a better team. They're the champs, they play a very disciplined game. I thought we did, too, for the most part."

The game Monday was the fourth in six nights to open the season for the Leafs.

"I liked us every night except the (Saturday) night on the back-to-back there -- the three-in- four," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said after the game Monday. " I didn't think we were very good. We have a chance to get a lot better, obviously."

--Field Level Media

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