Nikita Kucherov suspended 1 game for boarding Markus Nutivaara

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The series shifts to Columbus on Sunday night, and the Lightning will be without 128-point scorer Nikita Kucherov, who was suspended for a game for boarding the Markus Nutivaara on Friday night.

The hit may not have been intentionally high as Nutivaara went down to his knees, but Kucherov clearly hit him heavy to the head when he sent him to the boards. Victor Hedman and Josh Anderson were also ejected from the game in the ensuing scrum.

Kucherov was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for boarding.

The NHL's Department of Player Safety made the announcement Saturday afternoon. His absence would be another notable one, but there's some optimism he'll play Game 3.

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Kucherov has yet to record a point in the series that changed dramatically when Columbus scored four unanswered goals en route to a 4-3 victory in Game 1.

The NHL-best Lightning now face the tall task of climbing out of an 0-2 series deficit without the help of their best player and the league's likely Hart Trophy victor.

The league ruled that Nutivaara was in an "exposed and defenseless" position when Kucherov delivered a risky hit that drove him into the boards.

The Lightning is already at a two-game deficit entering Game 3 against the Blue Jackets, but now the team may have to find a way to win without its star defenseman, already knowing it's without a star forward. Kucherov scored 128 points this season (41 goals and 87 assists), the most the National Hockey League has seen since Jaromir Jagr scored 161 in 1995-96.

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