Sunday, July 15, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Chances dim for Steven Stamkos return in playoffs

TAMPA — After two days without skating, C Steven Stamkos was back on the ice for Thursday's Lightning practice.

Stamkos (blood clot) said he was still in a "holding pattern" and his status hadn't changed, though there was a 5 percent chance he could play in tonight's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final against the Penguins.

Stamkos, 26, also said there is a "real possibility" he won't play at all in the playoffs. He likely would have to sign a waiver assuming all risks if he wants to come back.

"I don't think in this situation you're going to get 100 percent green light or 100 percent red light (from doctors)," Stamkos said. "That's just the way it is. It's just something that hasn't been studied, hasn't been a lot of data on coming back from something like this. The more opinions you get, the more information you gather, sometimes the more confusing it gets.

"I always try to gather as much information with my family, my agents and friends, the team, and just put it all together. And obviously we don't have all the information right now, so I can't exactly say when that decision has to be made."

Stamkos said there was no scheduled doctor appointment or deadline for a decision. With no clinical studies or data to support him coming back, and whether a return would involve him being off blood thinners or using a different regimen, a decision would be about risk management.

It'd likely be up to Stamkos to decide whether to risk his health, which he says is most important. He is in the middle of a one- to three-month recovery period since April 4 surgery. Stamkos, who is in the last year of his contract and due a hefty payday either from the Lightning or as a free agent this summer, has a lot to think about.

"Obviously … you're going to err on the side of caution, for the most part," Stamkos said. "Everything is progressing well; tests I've had since Day 1 all look great. That's all I can continue to look for is progress, and the guys to keep winning."

DROUIN IT: RW Jonathan Drouin said he should have chipped the puck into the Penguins' zone Wednesday in the final seconds of Game 3's second period, when his turnover at the blue line led to the Penguins' first goal in a 4-2 win. He said coaches spoke with him at intermission. "They told me to keep playing, that stuff happens," he said.

Though Drouin appeared to get benched or demoted afterward, moved down to a line with Vladislav Namestnikov and Jonathan Marchessault, coach Jon Cooper said that wasn't the case. Cooper said he was just juggling lines and pointed out that Drouin played more (17:28) than Nikita Kucherov (16:36).

Drouin was back on his usual line with C Valtteri Filppula and LW Ondrej Palat on Thursday.

"The one thing with Jonathan is that sure, that was one mistake that was made 170 feet from the net, but there were other mistakes made by other players on the way back," Cooper said. "I think for any player's psyche, Jonathan included, you've just got to sick with them. These are the guys that are going to play. Jonathan is going to get right back up and go back out there."

STEPPING IN: G Andrei Vasilevskiy said the last time before Games 2 and 3 that he faced 40-plus shots in back-to-back games was three years ago, when he was playing in Russia. In Wednesday's loss, Vasilevskiy made 44 saves, the most by a Lightning goaltender in a regulation playoff game. In Monday's 3-2 overtime loss he had 38 saves on 41 shots. "It's good for me to stay warm," he said. "But if you give up 40, 45 shots a game, for sure they will score."

NUTS AND BOLTS: Showtime's All Access: Quest for the Stanley Cup, debuts at 9 tonight, including behind-the-scenes footage of the Lightning-Penguins series. … Penguins wing Patric Hornqvist left Game 3 late after blocking a shot. Coach Mike Sullivan said he was progressing and "I don't envision it being an issue."

Times correspondent Roger Mooney contributed to this report.

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