Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's Steven Stamkos eager to get back to more competitive hockey

BRANDON — As frustrating as the NHL lockout was for Lightning star center Steven Stamkos, it gave him an opportunity to do things in his hometown of Toronto he normally wouldn't get to do.

That included Stamkos, 22, playing in his father's pick-up hockey league every Thursday night, when he and former Lightning forward Steve Downie would mix it up with a group that varied as much in age (22-65) as ability.

"It was a blast, those guys loved it — they don't get a chance to play with NHL guys very often," Stamkos said. "It was a lot of fun and something I'll cherish forever."

But with the lockout over, Stamkos was excited to get back into a more competitive situation Tuesday, rejoining the Lightning at its informal skate at the Ice Forum. Safe to say partnering with Marty St. Louis on a line in a scrimmage was quite a change of pace from playing with his dad's buddies, who will no doubt miss the All-Star.

"It was fun setting up the old man," Stamkos said of his father, Chris. "His stats are going to go down for sure."

Speaking of stats, Stamkos is following up a season in which he became just the 20th NHL player to rack up 60 goals. He said it still hasn't really sunk in, a "humbling" number that his teammates deserve some credit for.

"I just go out and know my job is to create offense and produce and score," Stamkos said. "I just have to look at it as, I want to be the best every game. I want to score every game, that's the mentality that I have, no matter how many goals that I have."

Stamkos won't have to feel like he has to repeat the 60-goal performance, especially considering the shortened season will likely have just 48-50 games. He said his goals are to stay consistent offensively, while becoming a more all-around player.

"I want to be a guy who can be counted on in the last minute of the game, to protect a one- or two-goal lead," Stamkos said. "That's something that when I look at the best players in the game, not just the best offensive players, but the best overall players who are counted on in every situation, that's the type of player that I want to be. I have had to learn and go through that process my first four years. It doesn't just happen overnight."

IN THE FOLD: Stamkos wasn't the only new arrival Tuesday, with C Nate Thompson and D Brian Lee also back. In the player-organized skate, St. Louis directed the team in drills, then they scrimmaged. "It was a pretty good tempo skate today," Stamkos said. "I think the guys are going to get into shape quick."

HEAVY HEART: The Lightning offered condolences Tuesday to former C Dominic Moore, who lost his wife, Katie, to liver cancer Monday. Katie was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in April, two months after Moore was traded to the Sharks.

SUNDAY CAMP?: NHL commissioner Bill Daly said in an email to the Times that the league's "objective and expectation" is for training camps to open Sunday. But "nothing is set in stone," he added, and that camp openings will depend on "ratification (of the labor deal) and timeline."

NUTS AND BOLTS: Some players will skate this morning in Brandon, with D Victor Hedman and G Anders Lindback — each scheduled to arrive Tuesday night — potentially joining. … The team and the Tampa Bay Times Forum will hold a part-time job fair from 5-9 p.m. Thursday at the arena (complete application at tampabaylightning.com).

Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.

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