NEWARK, N.J. — Steven Stamkos has picked up the pace and intensity of the rehabilitation of his broken right tibia.
The Lightning center said so Saturday after going on the ice before the team's morning skate at the Prudential Center, where he did stick-handling drills and passed pucks to captain Marty St. Louis and D Victor Hedman. He even took some easy strides and a lazy shot or two.
"We've definitely ramped up the rehab part of it, whether it was in the water treadmill, in the gym, on the ice," Stamkos said.
Stamkos had skated twice before. But this was the first time he engaged with teammates and did it in front of reporters. That was quite a sight considering he was injured just five weeks ago, Nov. 11 in Boston, and had surgery the next day to insert a titanium rod and screws into the bone. Stamkos acknowledged swelling in the leg and ankle but said he is not in pain. "Medical advances, I guess," he said, smiling. "I'm feeling good. Everything is on track."
"It's unreal to see," C Nate Thompson said. "To have as traumatic an injury as he did and to be walking around and be on the ice with us, it is awesome. It is an uplift to our team."
Not to mention the coaches. "I try not to get overly excited because the hope of him coming back has turned into we know he's coming back," coach Jon Cooper said. "Now, it's just a matter of when."
The next question was whether the cleared hurdle helped focus Stamkos on a certain return date. He said no, though there is no doubt he would like to play at least a couple of games for Tampa Bay before playing for Canada at the Olympic tournament that begins Feb. 13 in Sochi, Russia.
"There is healing taking place in the bone, but by no means is it close to being fully healed, so only time will tell," Stamkos said.
"The ice stuff is really not so much for my leg. It's more for keeping my hands loose, shooting some pucks. Everything has gone great so far. I couldn't be more pleased with the treatment I've gotten from the medical staff and the progression I'm seeing. Everything is pointing in the right direction."
SLOW PROGRESS: Hedman (lower body) had limited participation at the morning skate, and Cooper said he likely won't play until after the road trip ends Tuesday. "Hopefully we keep making progress," Hedman said.
FRIENDS AND FOES: D Matt Taormina for the first time Saturday faced the Devils, who signed him to an AHL contract in 2009 and for whom he played 47 games from 2010-12: "I owe a lot to them and the organization."
ODDS AND ENDS: G Anders Lindback is 1-1-1 in his past three starts after the 3-0 loss to the Devils despite a 2.39 GAA and a .907 save percentage. … Devils G Martin Brodeur has shut out the Lightning six times. … Tampa Bay is 6-8-2 on the road after a 6-3-0 start. … LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie played after missing seven games with a left arm injury. … RW Richard Panik finished his two-game suspension for a from-behind hit Tuesday on Capitals D Karl Alzner. … D Mark Barberio was scratched.