Stamkos: Playing in the Olympics is 'a goal of mine'
If there was ever any doubt Steven Stamkos is aiming to play for Canada at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February, the Lightning's star center left no doubt Wednesday after a skate at the Rogers Center in Vancouver.
Stamkos, who is rehabbing from a broken right leg sustained Nov. 11 at Boston, said playing in the Olympics "is something that is a goal of mine," and he added, "I'm going to do everything I can to be ready."
"I want to come back and play hockey for the Tampa Bay Lightning before I go to the Olympics, if that's the case," Stamkos said. "But it's nice to have that goal to motivate you and push you through some of the tougher days."
Stamkos, 23, said he still has some minor pain and swelling, but that was to be expected. He said he is in pretty good shape skating in a straight line. The next step is strengthening the leg so it can withstand the turning and twisting.
"The shot feels great," Stamkos said. "Obviously, one-timers and stuff you are a little hesitant, you maybe are letting that leg come off the ground a little bit. But like I said, I know that I can do it. It's not about pushing it at this stage . My shot is something that is at the back of my mind right now. It's just trying to get strong and get that skating motion back and feeling the least amount of pain as possible when I'm doing that stuff."
The trip is Stamkos' first with the Lightning in Canada since his injury, and with the Canadian Olympic team expected to be announced on Jan. 7, he knew questions about his rehab, which had died down some in Tampa, would be back on the front burner.
"Coming to Canada, we knew this trip was probably going to gain a little more attention than I do in Tampa," Stamkos said. "But, again, it's been a while since my injury, so things have calmed down. (The talk is) more or less about how the team is playing and the great stretch that we've gone on. First time being in Canada since, so you expect that stuff and Olympics are coming up, so that's a huge thing for our country, so you expect those things and I'm going to do everything I can to be ready."
No specific timetable, Stamkos said, "I'm still a ways away, but you can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Ben Bishop gets the start in net tonight against the Canucks. Bishop certainly will be motivated as he was officially left off the U.S. Olympic team in favor of Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick and Jimmy Howard. ... As expected, left wing Ryan Malone (ankle) and defenseman Eric Brewer (believed an arm injury) will be back in the lineup. ... Scratches are forwards Tom Pyatt and B.J. Crombeen. Defenseman Sami Salo (upper body) also is out. It is unfortunate timing for Salo who said he was looking forward to playing in Vancouver, where he played for nine seasons, for the first time since joining the Lightning in July 2012. "It was one of those games that was marked in the calendar, but it's not going to happen, I know," Salo said. ... Coach Jon Cooper, who grew up in Prince George, British Columbia, said he will have two suites full of family and friends at the game. Brewer, who is from Vernon, British Columbia, said his count will be about 20. ... Right wing Nikita Kucherov has switched from No. 56 to 86. Kucherov said there is no significance other than he began wearing 86 when he played at home in Russia. ... Assistant coach Rick Bowness also made his first appearance in Vancouver, where he was an assistant from 2006-13.