Steven Stamkos won't be going to the Olympics because his broken right tibia is not fully healed.
But the Lightning's star center said of teammate Marty St. Louis, who will play for Canada in Stamkos' place, "He probably deserved to be on the team since Day 1, so for him to get a chance now, I'm definitely happy for him."
St. Louis was left off the team when it was first announced on Jan. 7, a snub he admitted made him "bitter," especially because Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman also is Team Canada's executive director.
But now that St. Louis will travel to Sochi, Russia, for the tournament that begins Wednesday, Stamkos said his St. Louis, if given the chance, will be a major contributor.
"He's going to go over there and play whatever role possible," Stamkos said. I personally think he's going to play a big role. The character that he has, the way he's played in big-game situations in the past. He's won individual awards, he's won team championships, he's been in those situations. It's not like it's a young guy whose never been in those situations coming in filling in for someone. This is a guy who can step in and play any role asked, and I think he's going to play a big role in Canada doing very well."
St. Louis cerainly has proven, at 38, that age is no obstacleto production. The right wing leads the Lightning with 25 goals, 29 assists and 54 points in 56 games. HIs average 21:49 of ice time leads all league wings.
Stamkos said he does not see St. Louis as his replacement.
"I see Marty deserving a spot on this team," Stamkos said. "He's going to go over there and prove to everyone why he deserves a spot and why he's on that team. I'm very happy for him. Ultimately, I would have loved to go over there together."
Stamkos, though, said he will spend the Olympic break in Tampa continuing his rehab, which he said will not slow down despite coach Jon Cooper's wish that Stamkos "go somewhere and jump on an island and sip Mai Tais for a week."
Stamkos, who will be reevaluated in two to three weeks, said he might take a day or two off, "But I'll be going out there and skating and working hard to make sure I'll be ready for the Tampa Bay Lightning. We want to keep progressing. If I take a week off that's not going to help my leg. We want to keep pushing those muscles, making sure you're still putting pressure on the bone so it continues to heal."
If all goes well, Stamkos could return to the lineup Feb. 27 at Nashville, the Lightning's first game after the Olympic break. Had he been cleared to play, he said he expected to play tonight at home against the Maple Leafs despite having said earlier he was targeting Saturday's game against the Red Wings.
"I was disappointed," Stamkos said of not being cleared. "You put in the hard work and appreciate the work all the trainers have done, the support you've got from your teammates, your coaching staff, the organization, your friends, your family. I've said that all I want to do is to be able to look myself in the mirror and say I did everything I could to give myself a chance."
"I feel terrible for Stammer that he's in this situation," St. Louis said. "Obviously, Canada is going to miss him. But I think if you ask Stammer, if anybody could replace him I know he would want me, so I'm going to try to go over there and do the best I can."