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Lightning's Cooper 'fired up' about Stamkos' progress

CALGARY — When it comes to the fast-track recovery Lightning star Steven Stamkos seems to be making from a broken right leg, coach Jon Cooper said it is difficult to control his enthusiasm.

"It makes you fired up," he said of Stamkos on Thursday skating in full gear for the first time since the Nov. 11 injury. "It's more a validation that he's hopefully going to be ready in the time frame we're hoping for."

Cooper said he has a date in mind that would allow Stamkos to play for Tampa Bay and then Canada at the Olympic tournament Feb. 12-23 in Sochi, Russia. Key will be Stamkos' scheduled X-ray next week after the team gets back from Canada.

"That will give us a little bit better of an indication where he's at in the healing stage," Cooper said Friday. "So, I would temper everybody's enthusiasm because the kid is a go-getter. He's going to go out there, whether it's on crutches, you would see him put the equipment on."

As for Stamkos, he called Thursday — when he skated easily, took some lazy slap shots and worked with captain Marty St. Louis on a tip drill — "baby steps" in his rehabilitation.

"Getting the lungs back a little bit," Stamkos said. "The laps seem a lot easier when you're in shape. It's about not having a setback right now. I'm definitely pleased with where I'm at."

Where he is at is seven-plus weeks since the injury. "I was kind of told 10 to 12 weeks before this thing is fully, fully healed, so it's getting there. You'd like to think you're on the shorter end of the recovery," Stamkos said.

A 12-week recovery would give Stamkos at least a couple of games with the Lightning before the Olympics, the team for which will be announced Tuesday. "I'd like nothing more than for him to play in the Olympics," Cooper said. "He deserves a chance to represent his country."

If he does, it means he already will have played for Tampa Bay.

MORE MEDICAL MATTERS: D Sami Salo (upper body) sat out a fourth straight game Friday against the Flames. Cooper indicated he should be ready for Sunday at Edmonton.

HOT SHOTS: After being near the bottom of the league in average shots on goal, the Lightning entered Friday with at least 30 shots in eight of its previous 11 games — including games of 50, 42 and 40 — and was tied for 17th with an average 29.6. "It's taken us three or four months to pound into the guys what we want done and what's been successful and what hasn't," Cooper said. "The message is, when you read the box score, nobody says how it went in. It just went in. We've taken more of a workmanlike approach."

HONORED: GM Steve Yzerman will be one of six inductees into the International Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in May. Yzerman, who played 23 seasons with the Red Wings, won Olympic gold with Canada as a player (2002) and as team executive director (2010). He also is executive director of the 2014 team.

ODDS AND ENDS: Entering his 41st game Friday, C Valtteri Filppula had 15 goals, 32 points. He had nine goals, 17 points in 41 games last season for the Red Wings. … The Lightning played with 11 forwards and seven defensemen against the Flames. … Forwards B.J. Crombeen and Tom Pyatt were scratched.

Lightning's Cooper 'fired up' about Stamkos' progress 01/03/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 3, 2014 11:56pm]

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