TAMPA — Lightning C Steven Stamkos seemed excited after Saturday's morning skate as he confirmed his commitment to play for Canada at next month's world championship.
He was also eager to get to Sweden, a country he has never visited and which is co-hosting the tournament with Finland.
"I'm excited to put on the Canada sweater," Stamkos said.
But the good feelings took a worrisome turn. Stamkos said his left knee was hurt with 1:10 left in the 5-3 season-finale loss to the Panthers when he was checked by Filip Kuba.
It is too early, Stamkos said, to tell how the injury will affect his participation at the world championship.
"I have no clue right now," he said. "It's sore right now. We'll see how it feels the next couple of days."
Stamkos, 23, missed last year's world championship because of a nagging left shoulder injury he wanted to rest.
His left shoulder has been an issue this season as well since he slammed into the end boards March 24 in Ottawa.
But Stamkos said an MRI exam in the past few weeks showed no damage, "just wear and tear."
"You want to make sure your body is feeling good," he said before the game. "Sometimes you need rest to take care of your body."
Perhaps that is the case again.
FINISH LINE: With the loss to the Panthers, Tampa Bay (18-26-4) finished 28th in the 30-team league with 40 points. That means the worst it can pick in the June draft is fourth, and that means it should get a good player, likely from a group including D Seth Jones (WHL Portland), C Nathan MacKinnon (QMJHL Halifax), LW Jonathan Drouin (QMJHL Halifax) and Aleksander Barkov (Tappara Finland).
"It's a situation where … if you're going to miss the playoffs, you might as well hit a home run and miss the playoffs," coach Jon Cooper said, "and I think we kind of did that."
NO GO: D Victor Hedman would love to play for his native Sweden in the world championship, especially in a year in which it is a co-host. But Hedman said it is more important this summer to heal a nagging injury.
"A tough decision to make," said Hedman, who missed four games this month with a lower-body injury. "But it's the right one.
"It's the best feeling in the world to represent your country, but I want to be 110 percent healthy so I can work hard and (get) at it next year."
SURPRISE: D Mathieu Roy was at home in St. Georges, Quebec, last week after playing in Hamburg, Germany, when he was called by the Lightning. Needing to fill out its lineup after sending D Radko Gudas to AHL Syracuse, Tampa Bay signed Roy to a prorated one-year deal. His only game was Saturday. He played 14:07 and was minus-1.
ODDS AND ENDS: Ben Pouliot's failed first-period penalty shot — Florida G Jacob Markstrom made a left-foot save — made Tampa Bay 10-for-45 all time on penalty shots. … LW Ryan Malone played after two games as a scratch and scored a goal. … G Ben Bishop was scratched, allowing Mathieu Garon to be on the bench in his last game with Tampa Bay. … The Lightning is 5-13-1 with a tie in season-closing games and 6-11-1 with two ties in home closers.