Stamkos advances to light contact in practice
Lightning star Steven Stamkos shed his red jersey in favor of a yellow one for Saturday's morning skate, signaling he's been cleared for light contact.
Stamkos, who suffered a broken right tibia Nov. 11, had hoped he'd be able to take the next step in his rehab after a Thursday x-ray was encouraging. And Stamkos appeared to enjoy his new status, playfully shoving teammate Marty St. Louis near the boards Saturday morning, even knocking the captain to the ice.
Stamkos' goal is to return for one of the Lightning's home games (Feb. 6, Feb. 8) before the Olympic break. But coach Jon Cooper tempered the excitement over the color of the All-Star's jersey, saying Stamkos is "a ways away" from being cleared to play.
"Everyday he's getting better," Cooper said. "There's still lots of things that have to go on still. He hasn't been cleared, ane he's still a ways away from being cleared. He hasn't done any battling. So it's just the process is slowly going on. But, in saying that, when you take the minimum-maximum (recovery) what the injury was, he's closer to coming in at the minimum time frame than obviously the maximum timeframe. So that's good for all of us."
When Stamkos was hurt, it was expected he'd miss 3-6 months. Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said team medical director Ira Guttentag "is very pleased with how (Stamkos' leg) looks on film and his instruction was "to pick up the work load a little bit and see how it responds."
"We'll continue to monitor everything the next couple of weeks and make a decision when we need to," Yzerman said.
Cooper pointed out Tampa Bay hasn't had a lot of practice time where they could push Stamkos in battles, but expects to have a more "energetic" skate Monday.
More from morning skate: Cooper said it'll be the same lineup tonight vs. the Avalanche, with goalie Ben Bishop in net... The Avalanche will go with recently-called up rookie G Sami Aittokallio, who will be making his second career NHL start...Cooper said RW Richard Panik's reassignment to AHL Syracuse was "by no means a permanent thing," but with the Lightning getting closer to full strength, they want to give him a chance to play more. Panik has played sporadicallly this past month, but will be competing in the Olympics. "Instead of sitting in the stands here for the next week, why not go play the power play, play penalty kill, 5-on-5 and get your mojo back," Cooper said. "So when he does come back here he's ready to play.".. Cooper praised rookie D Mark Barberio, how he's playing with a lot more confidence, saying it's hard to take him out of the lineup right now..