Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

All falling into place for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos

TAMPA — Maybe it has been Steven Stamkos' return to center, his natural and preferred position.

Or maybe it has the sense of relief after GM Steve Yzerman declared Feb. 15 that the Lightning captain would not be dealt at Monday's trade deadline.

Either way, Stamkos is on a roll, having scored in four consecutive games for the first time this season thanks to Tuesday's first-period goal, his team-leading 26th this season. He switched from right wing to center before the Feb. 16 game against the Sharks and has clicked with LW Alex Killorn and RW Ryan Callahan.

"When I got moved back, it's definitely more comfortable position for me," Stamkos said. "But at the same time the correlation with the success is just competing and playing well and playing good defensively, and like I said, I don't know if that has anything to do with it, if it's just a coincidence, but I feel like my game has gotten a little better over this past couple weeks and for me just trying to do the right things on the ice."

Three goals have come from right around the crease, including Tuesday's rebound at the right post. The other was Sunday's winning power-play goal, a snipe from the slot. Stamkos has six streaks longer than this, his most seven in a row in February/March 2010.

Stamkos, in the final year of his contract, said Yzerman's statement helped in not having to deal with as many questions on his uncertain status.

"I've just been trying to focus on playing hard and playing the right way and just getting back to the things I've seen in my game that made me successful in the past," Stamkos said. "And it's been working."

Garrison close: Whether the team can acquire a defenseman by Monday's trade deadline remains to be seen.

But Tampa Bay will likely get one of its own top-four defenseman back around then, with Jason Garrison saying he's a week away from returning. Garrison has been out since Feb. 8 with a lower body injury, expected to put him out 3-5 weeks.

After skating on his own Monday and with the team Tuesday, Garrison indicated it's possible he'll be ready around Monday's three-week mark.

"That's what I'm going for," Garrison said. "The timeline seems about right so far. I felt pretty good after the first skate. I think with the progress that I've made and the way I felt (Tuesday), if it keeps going that way, it should be more closer to the three than the five."

Still out: Though RW Nikita Kucherov participated in Tuesday's morning skate, he did not play for the second consecutive game because of a lower body injury. Kucherov is still considered day to day.

Lining up: G Andrei Vasilevskiy started. C Valtteri Filppula played in his 700th career game. D Matt Taormina, called up Monday, was a healthy scratch. … The Capitals, Red Wings, Blackhawks, Panthers, Blue Jackets and Predators had reps at Tuesday's game. TSN's Bob McKenzie reports there are easily 10-plus teams interested in suspended RW Jonathan Drouin.

Contact Joe Smith at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

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