Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos to return for Lightning

Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov will return for the Lightning for Game 1 of their playoff series versus the Panthers on Sunday, SportsNet.ca reports. Kucherov has missed the entire regular season due to offseason hip surgery, so Sunday will be his season debut. In Kucherov, we are talking about a player who has scored 202 goals over the past six seasons. He is widely considered to be one of the best players in the game.

Stamkos has been out of the lineup since April 10, a total of 16 games, due to a lower-body injury. This is the second season in a row that Stamkos has suffered a late-season injury that has forced him to miss significant time. Although last year it cost him a good portion of the playoffs, this season, it looks like he will return right before they are set to begin. Stamkos had 17 goals and 17 assists in 38 games before the injury.

The Lightning took the foot off the gas at the end of the season, electing health over a push to rise in the standings. This playoff series versus the Panthers will be the first time these Florida teams have played against each other in the postseason.

The Lightning are -1.5 (+220) on the puck line Sunday, -122 on the money line, with an over/under of 5.5, (-110) at FanDuel.com.