TAMPA — One day after Lightning C Steven Stamkos broke his right tibia in Boston on Nov. 11, Bruins D Zdeno Chara sent him a text message offering his team's support.
Chara said it was difficult to watch Stamkos get carried off the TD Garden ice on a stretcher after sliding into the post.
"We all felt bad," Chara said, "because he's one of the best players in the league and is fun to watch."
So as the Bruins came to Tampa on Saturday for the first time since Stamkos' injury, they were happy to see the Tampa Bay captain back on the ice. Coach Claude Julien, who was an assistant for Team Canada at the Olympics, said while they won a gold medal in Sochi, Russia, Stamkos was "really missed."
"He's a great player that I think everybody comes to watch and play," Julien said. "He's one of the elite players in the league. You talk about a guy who's a natural goal-scorer, and he would have been a good asset to us. He's definitely a player that I think a lot of people can look up to, and even if he's on another team, he's a pretty special player."
Stamkos, who played in his second game since returning, said it was classy of Julien to visit him in the hospital after his surgery. Stamkos said he hasn't heard from Bruins D Dougie Hamilton, whom he was backchecking before colliding with the post. Hamilton declined comment Saturday.
Said Chara: "It's just nice that (Stamkos) had a full recovery."
ANOTHER VIEW: Rookie RW Nikita Kucherov admits he's in a slump and his confidence has dipped a bit.
So with the Lightning facing a big Bruins team, associate coach Rick Bowness said it made Kucherov a healthy scratch, hoping he can learn while watching from upstairs.
Kucherov, 20, a second-round pick in 2011 out of Russia, burst onto the scene in scoring a goal on the first shot of his first shift of his NHL debut Nov. 25. He has eight goals for the season (along with seven assists) but just one since Jan. 19 with 17 shots over his past 13 games.
"He's a highly skilled rookie who hasn't found the back of the net for a little bit, and you can see him squeezing the stick a little bit," Bowness said.
"And one of the benefits of sitting above is you realize that sometimes, there really is more time out there than you feel on the ice."
GETTING AN A: Stamkos wasn't the only Lightning player to get a letter added to his sweater this week. D Eric Brewer was named an alternate captain for the rest of the season. C Nate Thompson and D Matt Carle will rotate as additional alternate captains, Carle doing so for home games and Thompson for road games.
Brewer, a former captain with the Blues, has already provided leadership since arriving in 2011. But Bowness said the nod is a "sign of recognition and respect for what we see, and his teammates are well aware of it."
Odds and ends: RW Ryan Callahan picked up his first Lightning point with a secondary assist on D Mark Barberio's goal. … D Keith Aulie was back in the lineup with LW Ryan Malone, RW B.J. Crombeen and D Radko Gudas (lower-body injury) also scratched.
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_JSmith.