Sunday, April 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Clock ticks on Stamkos' rehab

There has been no set date for when Steven Stamkos will participate in full-contact drills. But with the Olympics to begin Feb. 12 in Sochi, Russia — and with Team Canada needing to determine if the Lightning center can participate — that day is fast approaching.

It might even be today.

"Might be," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said, "might be."

That could be a smoke screen, of course.

Cooper has said what will be an important moment in Stamkos' rehab of a broken right tibia would best be done without reporters watching. So who is to say Stamkos didn't find some ice Sunday, a day without a scheduled practice, and do some puck battles with a few teammates just to see how it felt.

Whatever the timing, the issue is the same.

"Questions are going to have to be answered," Stamkos, out since Nov. 11, said Friday in Montreal. "Basically, I'm going to make a decision. Am I ready to play at that level?"

Stamkos will have an X-ray when the team returns to Tampa after Tuesday's game at Minnesota. There will be discussions with Lightning doctors, Tampa Bay and Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman and executives from Hockey Canada.

Stamkos has said he wants to play in one or both of the Lightning's home games leading up to the Olympics. But he also said not playing Thursday against the Maple Leafs or Saturday against the Red Wings would not preclude him from going to Sochi.

Here is what could:

"I don't feel I'm where I need to be in order to play in a game yet," Stamkos said Friday, his last meeting with reporters. "You have to listen to your body. It has gotten better, and there's less and less pain every time I get on the ice. But there's still discomfort."

Stamkos, who had a titanium rod inserted in the tibia, said he hopes the pain will at least become "manageable."

"But right now, it's still a little sharp in certain areas," he said. "The bone itself, the way it's healed, if everything else was good, I could be playing. It's just there's a lot of soft tissue stuff, ligaments, tendons, muscles that haven't moved in an explosive manner in the last 11 weeks. So that's really where the bulk of my discomfort is. If I have to stop and do explosive crossovers and acceleration, I'm not quite comfortable with that yet."

Perhaps the only way to get comfortable is to do it, which is why his participation in full contact is so important.

"It is tough mentally going in there and getting bumped around knowing you're a little hesitant in certain areas," Stamkos said. "That's what you don't want, and I'm trying to overcome that. As you progress and take more contact in practice, hopefully that goes away."

It should be noted today marks 12 weeks since Stamkos was hurt. At the time, the prognosis was three to six months. In other words, he is crossing into the minimum time for healing.

"He's getting closer," Cooper said. "I think in all of our minds, we're trying to push him farther ahead than he really is. … He already has been superhuman to get to the point he is right now. I don't know if he's going to be ready for the Olympics. We all hope he is.

"That we're even having a conversation talking about it is pretty remarkable."

Comments
Maple Leafs force Game 6 with Bruins

Maple Leafs force Game 6 with Bruins

BOSTON — Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk scored 1:19 apart in the second period, and then the Maple Leafs killed off a 5-on-3 and three more power plays in a row to beat the Bruins 4-3 in Game 5 on Saturday night and avoid playoff eliminatio...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Lightning-Devils: How the NHL’s top offense went on the defensive

Lightning-Devils: How the NHL’s top offense went on the defensive

TAMPA — It was a couple of days after the Lightning beat the Bruins at home late in the regular season when associate coach Rick Bowness talked about how the defensive effort used in that shutout victory was the one the Lightning would need in ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rookie? Lightning D Mikhail Sergachev’s playing like a seasoned pro

Rookie? Lightning D Mikhail Sergachev’s playing like a seasoned pro

TAMPA — Pardon Mikhail Sergachev if he isn't so good at one of hockey's greatest traditions. After all, growing a Stanley Cup playoff beard isn't easy when you're still just a teenager.As he stood in the Lightning locker room Saturday evening w...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Lightning-Devils: Grading Tampa Bay’s clinching 3-1 victory in Game 3

Lightning-Devils: Grading Tampa Bay’s clinching 3-1 victory in Game 3

TAMPA — Closers.That's what the Lightning looked like as it closed out the New Jersey Devils in five games with a 3-1 win Saturday.Nikita Kucherov's star power blazed again, the defense controlled the game and not even Jersey goaltend...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Roger Mooney’s takeaways from the Lightning’s first-round series

Roger Mooney’s takeaways from the Lightning’s first-round series

TAMPA — In the postseason, teams want to bank days off so they are as fresh as can be for the next round. That's why it was so important for the Lightning to close out Jersey in five. The fewer the games, the less wear and tear on the body, les...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Lightning stays patient, even through 0-for-5 power-play drought

Lightning stays patient, even through 0-for-5 power-play drought

TAMPA — The Lightning so dominated the second period Saturday that the Devils had more penalties (five) than shots on goal (four), and yet Tampa Bay was unable to build on a 1-0 lead as they sought to clinch the opening-round series.Nowhere was...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Nikita Kucherov’s goal sets Lightning playoff series scoring record

Nikita Kucherov’s goal sets Lightning playoff series scoring record

TAMPA — After clinging to a 1-0 lead for more than two periods Saturday, the Lightning got a long-awaited cushion — and ultimately the winning goal — when Nikita Kucherov scored with 7:33 left in the final period of a 3-1 victo...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Lightning wins 3-1, advances to the semifinals

Lightning wins 3-1, advances to the semifinals

TAMPA — The Lightning closed out its quarterfinal series against the Devils with a suffocating defensive effort.The Devils finally solved Andrei Vasilevskiy in the waning moments with goalie Cory Schneider on the bench and the Devils skati...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Live blog: Lightning aims to eliminate Devils in Game 5

Live blog: Lightning aims to eliminate Devils in Game 5

Follow our live coverage of the opening-round NHL playoff series between the Lightning and New Jersey Devils. Times reporters, editors, sports columnists and photo journalists will chronicle the action on and off the ice through updates, analysis, ph...
Published: 04/21/18
Devils top D Vatanen out today vs. Lightning

Devils top D Vatanen out today vs. Lightning

TAMPA — Devils top defenseman Sami Vatanen will not play today because of an upper body injury suffered during the first period of Game 4, coach John Hynes announced this afternoon.Mirco Mueller will replace Vatanen in the lineup.Game 5 be...
Published: 04/21/18