Stamkos doesn't let contract stuff 'creep into the room'
While Lightning captain Steven Stamkos will find himself in the middle of a media circus Tueday in Toronto, he certainly doesn't seem too concerned about it.
"The focus tonight is on Columbus," Stamkos said after this morning's skate. "We'll deal with that when the time comes."
Stamkos is in the final year of his deal, his uncertain contract saga is the talk of the hockey world, specifically in his hometown of Toronto, where Maple Leafs fans are clamoring for the Markham, Ontario native to return home in free agency this summer. Stamkos' appearance Tuesday in Toronto is a big story, which is why TSN, Canada's ESPN, had a reporter at the Lightning's pre-game skate in Columbus.
But Stamkos said nothing from the outside, including the fallout from his inadvertant Twitter "like" Wednesday of a TSN tweet of him potentially playing for Toronto, has impacted him or his teammates.
"That's what's so great about this group," Stamkos said. "Obviously we all support each other, and have each other's backs. I don't let that stuff creep into the room. As tough as it's been from that standpoint, I don't think I've allowed myself to bring (that) into the room, and I don't think anyone else has really thought about it (in here)."
The longer Stamkos goes without an extension in Tampa Bay, the more speculation will come. Stamkos did tell the Times that a recent report that his parents moved to Tampa is not true. Coach Jon Cooper also isn't worried about Tuesday's trip to Toronto and the constant media discussion.
"That's all white noise to us," Cooper said. "That's a whole different part of the game that has nothing to do with us on the ice."
On the ice, Stamkos is in an eight-game scoring drought, his longest since going eight in December, 2009. While Stamkos has five assists in that span, he has just six shots in the past five games. Stamkos is still tied with Nikita Kucherov for a team-high 11 goals.
"It's obviously a tough stretch right now, I've been through this before," Stamkos said. "It's not cheating the game, sometimes in situations you try to hope for a bounce or try to make a play, usually you're looking offensively instead of making the right play. I've tried not to do that. I think the chances are coming, hopefully they start going in."
What has Stamkos learned from previous slumps?
"There's really non solution other than hard work and continue to play the game the right way," Stamkos said. "I'd worry if I weren't getting the chances. But especially the last couple games, we felt we've deserved a lot better than we've gotten."