Steven Stamkos not cleared to play and is out of the Olympics
Lightning star Steven Stamkos, out since Nov. 11 with a broken right tibia, had been confident the past few days that he would be able to get back in the lineup on Saturday at home against the Red Wings and perhaps even play for Canada in the Olympics.
But a CT scan on Wednesday revealed the bone was not completely healed, so Stamkos was not cleared to play by team medical director Ira Guttentag and is out of the Olympics. Stamkos will be reevaluated in two to three weeks, the team said.
"After reviewing the CT scan this afternoon, Dr. Guttentag made it clear to me and to Steven that the tibia is not completely healed and therefore he should not be participating in game action at any time in the near future," Lightning and Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman said in making the announcement. "Although the doctor was very pleased to this point with the healing process, he explained that the callus surrounding the fracture site is not 100 percent consolidated, and Steven will not be cleared to play in a game until that happens. It was a pretty clear cut decision, no gray areas at all."
Stamkos' return to active duty always was predicated on the doctors' say-so. Even so, it was a surprising reversal as Stamkos had participated in intense practices and puck battles the past two days and said that considering the way he felt he did not believe there would be any impediment to being cleared to play.
"Today is obviously very disappointing for me," Stamkos said in a statement released by the team. "I honestly believe that we did everything possible in order to have my injured leg ready in time for the Olympics, but I realize you can't force healing. I know, in the best interest of my long term health, I cannot represent Canada in Sochi, as much as I would like to. I would like to thank the training staff for their dedication and hard work and I look forward to returning to the Lightning once cleared by the medical team."
The next question for Yzerman and Team Canada is who to send in Stamkos' place. Lightning right wing Marty St. Louis and Flyers center Claude Giroux are believed to be the front-runners, Canada's Globe and Mail reported. But Pittsburgh's James Neal and Carolina's Eric Staal also have been mentioned.
Stamkos' exclusion creates another sticky situation for Yzerman, who is now in a position to turn away St. Louis from the Olympics for a third time. Yzerman, who was GM of the gold-medal 2010 team, left St. Louis off the team then and in January when the current team was named.
A replacement should be known fairly quickly as NHL players are scheduled to leave for Sochi, Russia, on Sunday. Canada's first game is Feb. 13 against Norway.