NEWARK, N.J. — Steven Stamkos on Saturday skated with teammates before the Lightning's morning skate at the Prudential Center.
Though doing stick-handling drills, skating easily and taking a few lazy shots only five weeks after surgery to repair a broken right tibia helps the star center keep a positive outlook, it also reinforces how he cannot do anything more for his teammates right now than provide encouragement.
"That's been one of the tougher parts … watching the games and knowing you can't be out there helping your team," Stamkos said.
That makes the little things matter even more, such as passing pucks back and forth Saturday with captain Marty St. Louis and feeding pucks to defenseman Victor Hedman, who also put in some ice time rehabilitating from a lower-body injury.
Just putting on skates and walking around the locker room was an emotional boost, Stamkos said.
"You miss the camaraderie with the guys," he said. "And now, coming on the road again and feeling more a part of the team (helps)."
"Just having him around and having him on the road with us in the locker room, his presence around here (is good)," center Nate Thompson said. "And to go out there and see him on the ice, I was joking with him, 'Stay out there and push some pucks around for us.'
"It's great to see he's working hard. He obviously wants to get back pretty quick."
Stamkos watches every game, and of the 6-5-3 record Tampa Bay had posted without him entering Saturday's game with the Devils, he said, "Our guys have done a tremendous job. … I couldn't be more proud of the way we're playing."
"I'm just sitting here anxiously," he said of his eventual return. "But at the same time, it is still a ways away."
In the meantime, Stamkos will take progress where he can get it.
"Mentally, it's such a good thing to get back out there on the ice and pass the puck with a couple of guys," he said. "That's positive for me. That's only going to help me."