Stamkos to have surgery, could miss four months
The news couldn't have been much worse Thursday when it came to Steven Stamkos.
Stamkos, 26, is expected to miss at least four months with a torn meniscus, which will soon be surgically-repaired in Colorado. Gone is the Lightning captain, top leader and leading goal scorer
But there was a sense of calmness and confidence in the Tampa Bay dressing room after Thursday's morning skate. No pity party, just determination to find a way. Their goal? Make the playoffs so Stamkos can return for another Stanley Cup run.
"We know we can do this," coach Jon Cooper said.
"We know we can handle it," defenseman Victor Hedman said.
"We're ready," center Tyler Johnson said.
It's not surprising considering the Lightning has been here before - twice. Stamkos missed 45 games in the 2013-14 season after breaking his right tibia, Tampa Bay still reaching the playoffs. At the end of last season, the Lightning advanced two playoff rounds without Stamkos and top-pair defenseman Anton Stralman, who is currently sidelined with an upper body injury.
"You've got to take your head out of the sand, dig in your heels and march on," Cooper said."Unfortunately this happened to us before and the guys found a way but we have to look at this as a challenge.'
"Now, everyone has to pitch in. Yes, we are going to miss him dearly but our season’s over by no means."
Stamkos suffered the lateral meniscus tear in the first period of Tuesday's 4-3 win over the Red Wings. He got tangled along the boards during a penalty kill shift. Grabbing the back of his right knee before he skated off, nobody knew how bad this would be.
"Unfortunately, it's one of the worst things that could have come out of that kind of play," Johnson said.
Stamkos appeared to have two choices - to trim the torn part of the meniscus off, resulting in maybe several weeks recovery. Or go for a complete repair, which takes longer but is better for long-term health of his joint. The surgery is expected to be done by Dr. Robert LaPrade in Vail, Colorado, TSN's Bob McKenzie the first to report the decision.
Stamkos had been off to a hot start, leading the team with nine goals, along with 20 points.
"Forty-eight hours ago, I'd say (Stamkos) was playing as good of hockey as I’ve ever seen and some of the best in his career and you’re really, really excited," Cooper said. "He’s got his contract and everything behind him and he’s leading our team. And for him to go down, you feel sick for him."
The good news is the Lightning has depth, and will welcome the return of wing Jonathan Drouin, who missed the last seven games with an upper-body injury. Drouin, if you remember, helped replace Stamkos in the playoffs with 14 points in 17 games.
"It's going to take everyone to step up," Johnson said. "It's not one player replacing Stammer, that's impossible. It takes everyone to play that much better, elevate their game. We've done it in the past."
And the Lightning believes it can do it again.