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Stamkos aims for Olympic return

VANCOUVER — If there was any doubt Steven Stamkos has his sights set on playing for Canada at next month's Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the Lightning's injured center put that to rest.

The Olympics "is something that's a goal of mine," Stamkos said Wednesday. "I'm going to do everything I can to be ready."

But before that, said Stamkos, out since Nov. 11 with a broken right tibia, "I want to come back and play for the Lightning. … It's nice to have that goal to motivate you and push you through some of the tougher days."

Stamkos, 23, said he still has minor pain and swelling, but that was to be expected. He said skating in a straight line is no problem. The next step is strengthening the leg so it can withstand turning and twisting.

Stamkos, who is traveling with the team on this trip and skating on his own, said his shot "feels great."

"Obviously, one-timers and stuff, you are a little hesitant, you maybe are letting that leg come off the ground a little bit," he said. "It's not about pushing it at this stage. It's just trying to get strong and get that skating motion back and feeling the least amount of pain as possible when I'm doing that stuff."

Stamkos said he has no timetable for a return: "I'm still a ways away, but you can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel."

BISHOP SNUBBED for olympics: G Ben Bishop was left off the U.S. Olympic team even though his stats — 20-5-3 entering Wednesday with a 1.89 goals-against average, a .935 save percentage and three shutouts — were better than those of the goalies named: Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick, Buffalo's Ryan Miller and Detroit's Jimmy Howard.

A story by espn.com's Scott Burnside, who had access to the decision process, wrote that the red flags about Bishop were his lack of playoff experience and that he lost his starting job at last year's world championship to John Gibson, 20.

It was clear, Burnside wrote, Bishop "does not have the confidence" of the selection committee. That would seem to contradict what U.S. and Panthers GM Dave Poile told the Tampa Bay Times in November: "Especially for goalies, we need guys who are playing well this year. Certainly that favors somebody like Ben with how he's playing."

For more, go to tampabay.com/blogs/lightning.

SALO WATCHES: Sami Salo admitted Wednesday's game against the Canucks was one "marked in the calendar."

But the defenseman, who played nine seasons for the Canucks before signing with Tampa Bay in July 2012, missed his first chance to play against his former team because of an upper-body injury.

"For sure," Salo said when asked if he was disappointed. "I have a lot of good memories. It's a special place. I wanted to play, but it's not going to happen."

Coach Jon Cooper said Salo could play either Friday at Calgary or Sunday at Edmonton.

MORE CONNECTIONS: Cooper, who grew up in Prince George, British Columbia, said he had two suites full of family and friends at the game. … Assistant coach Rick Bowness, an assistant with the Canucks from 2006-13, faced his former team for the first time. … D Eric Brewer, from Vernon, British Columbia, said about 20 family and friends attended.

ODDS AND ENDS: RW Nikita Kucherov changed his number to 86 from 56. He wore 86 at AHL Syracuse and in his native Russia. … Tampa Bay played with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. … Forwards Tom Pyatt and B.J. Crombeen were scratched.

Stamkos aims for Olympic return 01/01/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 2, 2014 12:08am]
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