Steven Stamkos is cleared to play, and a Tampa Bay Lightning goalie prospect shines
Expect Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos to be in the lineup for Canada's game Tuesday against the Czech Republic at the world championship. Stamkos wrote in an e-mail he "can't wait to get back in the lineup" after doctors cleared him to play. Stamkos sustained a mild concussion Wednesday against Switzerland, and missed two games.
Stamkos' return was a multi-stepped process. First, he had to get over the headaches and dizziness he said he felt after taking an elbow to the jaw from Swiss defenseman Timo Helbling. He then had to work out on the stationary bike and have at least one practice in which he was symptom free.
Canada has lost twice in the tournament and certainly hopes Stamkos, Tampa Bay's 50-goal scorer who has two goals and three points in three games for Canada, can help provide a lift.
"I think the guys know we're a better team than that," Stamkos told reporters in Germany after Monday's practice. "We're in a position now where we have to win every game."
Also, with the Lightning goaltending situation in such disarray, it is worth noting the play of Russian goalie Vasily Koshechkin, who has been one of the tournament's hottest players. Koshechkin, who former GM Brian Lawton had said he wanted to bring to North America next season, has played two games while sharing duties with Semyon Varlamov, winning both. He has stopped 62 of 64 shots for a .969 save percentage and a 1.00 goals-against average.
Koshechkin, 27, and 6-foot-6, is an interesting case. The Lightning drafted him in the eighth round in 2002, but were never able to get him signed. Lawton said last season he believes Koshechkin now wants to come to North America, but only if he plays in the NHL. In other words, he does not want to play in the minors.
Koshechkin would give Tampa Bay plenty of options. Perhaps he is as good as advertised. With Mike Smith struggling and the Lightning perhaps not inclined to give Antero Niittymaki the salary or years he probably wants, Koshechkin could be a nice addition. And with Tampa Bay with so many good goaltending prospects -- Karri Ramo, Dustin Tokarski, Jaroslav Janus -- adding Koshechkin would give the team even more depth from which to deal.
All this is just talk and speculation, of course, until the Lightning gets a general manager who will certainly have his own ideas on what direction to go.