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Steven Stamkos in Lightning lineup for Game 7

Steven Stamkos hasn't played since Mar. 31, undergoing surgery April 4 to repair a blood clot in his collarbone area.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Steven Stamkos hasn't played since Mar. 31, undergoing surgery April 4 to repair a blood clot in his collarbone area.

Steven Stamkos is back.

The Lightning captain made his much-anticipted return for Thursday's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. He hadn't played since Mar. 31, working his way back from April 4 surgery to repair a blood clot in his right collarbone area, a condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

Stamkos' surgeon, Dr. Karl Illlig, told the Tampa Bay Times Thursday he cleared the All-Star a while ago, but the issues were him still being on blood thinners; players can't participate in games on blood thinners. Illig said Stamkos received several opinions from hematologists, and made his decision to return tonight, a decision Illig supports.

Stamkos had said he may never get a 100-percent "green light" or "red light" from doctors.

"In all of life, it's risk vs. benefit,"' Illig said by phone Thursday night. "Steven's risks are very, very low. I support him. I think he's doing the right thing."

Illig couldn't say whether Stamkos is off blood thinners, or if he's on the necessary regimen to play. But Illig credited Stamkos' work ethic, saying he's been fine physically for weeks. Stamkos has been skating with the team since April 26, putting himself in tremendous shape, hoping to give himself a chance to return.

And after being coy this morning, Stamkos saying his status hadn't changed, he arrived on the early bus with the team to Consol Energy, participated in warmups and played. Illig said the chances of Stamkos' getting another clot are "very, very low."

"I think he made a great decision," Illig said.

Developing:  There's certainly a lot of smoke and speculation when it comes to whether Lightning captain Steven Stamkos will play in tonight's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

While Stamkos said this morning there was "no change" in his status, he arrived on the early bus with the team for tonight's game. And coach Jon Cooper didn't exactly rule Stamkos out, declining to say whether Stamkos is available.

Stamkos hasn't played since Mar. 31, undergoing surgery April 4 to repair a blood clot in his collarbone area. He would need to be off blood thinners, or on a specific regimen of that mediciation, in order to play.

After Cooper opened his press conference tonight by saying he wouldn't discuss warmups, when pressed, he said this:

"If he's in the lineup it's our best foot forward," Cooper said. "If he's not in the lineup it's because he's not eligible to play."

When asked this morning if it was "go-time" tonight, Stamkos said, "No. No status change. There's nothing to update."

Maybe there will be. Looks like warmups will be interesting tonight.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 26, 2016 9:33pm]

    

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