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Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos older, wiser at 23; now if the team can just win



Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos scored a goal on his 22nd birthday last year, though the team lost 3-1 to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Kings. Stamkos said he wouldn't mind a "big win" over the Devils tonight, on his 23rd birthday, no matter if he scores or not.

Stamkos' 186 goals are the most any active player had when turning 23. They also are fourth all-time behind Wayne Gretzky (329), Dale Hawerchuk (220) and Mario Lemieux (215).

"It's pretty surreal when you think about it," Stamkos said. "It's something that you work hard towards. It's not something that you set as a goal but it's an accomplishment to be up with guys like that. It just goes to show the quality of teammates and coaching staff I've played with and the opportunities I've got. At the end of the day I want t continue getting better and scoring more goals and helping this team win."

We've talked before about how Stamkos, just with time, has grown bigger and stronger and how his summer workouts with trainer Gary Roberts have helped Stamkos take better advantage of his skills. But with age also comes wisdom.

"It's not necessarily the older the wise, it's more experienced," Stamkos said. "You could be young and go through situations where you can gain that knowledge. For sure, i buy into the experience thing. If I knew what I know now the last time we were in the playoffs (2010-11), it's a different story. I'm definitely maturing as a person and a player, picking up different things every day I play. It's going to be an ongoing  process until you are done playing."

Asked for a specific example of how experience has helped his game, Stamkos said, "My mind-set coming into games compared to the first 40 games of my rookie season is night and day, the confidence level, what you expect of yourself, what your teammates expect of you, knowing your opponents now. I've been in this league, this is my fifth year. You understand what type of team you're playing against, what type of player you're playing against their type of tendencies. Those are the things you pick up. That's why veteran players are usually successful, they're able to pick up those things as they go through their careers. That's something I'm starting to do now." 

Other stuff from the morning skate: As expected, Anders Lindback gets the start in net. ... Sounds as if right wing B.J. Crombeen will be out of the lineup tonight, but coach Guy Boucher says it is only a precaution after Crombeen had to leave Tuesday's game after a fight with the Flyers' Zac Rinaldo. Crombeen took several hard blows to the head (including at least one when he was on his knees in a defenseless position). Crombeen and Boucher said the player has not shown any concussion symptoms. But with the hyper-sensitive atmosphere right now when it comes to head injuries, it seems to make sense to hold out Crombeen, who did not skate this morning. "It's touchy," Boucher said. "It's a lot more touchy than it used to be. I remember when I was playing, you got knocked out and you didn't know what was going on but if you could say what your name was you were back in after 10 seconds. It's changed quite a bit and it changed for the better that we're more careful." Crombeen skated Wednesday and rode the bike Tuesday and today without effects, he said. "It's tough," he added. "Every ounce of me wants to be out there with the boys and the team but you understand the rationale behind it and it's definitely not going to hurt to get some rest." As for Crombeen being more aware of head injuries given the recent publicity, especially coming out of the NFL, he said, "You play hockey and you play the way I play, obviously, you know the risks that come along with it. It's kind of what you signed up for. So, you do the best to protect yourself and make sure those kinds of things don't happen. There's a chance something can happen to you walking down the street, but it's obviously heightened playing hockey and playing at this level. You just try to be aware of it and conscious of it." ... Nothing official but appears that defenseman Brian Lee and right wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie also will be scratched as they were on the ice late. If so, that means Boucher will play with 11 forwards and seven defenseman. It also would mean defenseman Brendan Mikkelson gets in his second game of the season and first since Jan. 22 against the Hurricanes, and defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron gets in his third game of the season. ... Rookie left wing Cory Conacher got an official letter from the Lightning telling him he can look for permanent housing in the Tampa Bay area. The team had put Conacher up at a hotel during his first few games in the league. And while nobody expected Tampa Bay to send Conacher back to the minors, getting the letter was a relief. "It's a Christmas gift for me," he said. "It's such a dream come true for a young kid like myself." ... The Lightning's three one-goal losses in regulation are as many as the team had all last season.

[Last modified: Thursday, February 7, 2013 2:21pm]


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