MONTREAL — Steven Stamkos had a metal rod inserted into his broken right tibia Monday. The team said the surgery performed at Massachusetts General Hospital was a success, and the all-star center is expected to make a full recovery.
Whether that takes three months — which would be the best-case scenario and seemingly make Stamkos' participation for Canada in the Sochi Olympics a close call — or longer, which would end his season, is the question.
The team said Stamkos, injured when he crashed into a goalpost in the second period of Monday's 3-0 loss to the Bruins at TD Garden, will be in Tampa on Thursday to begin rehab, though no details were provided except that the rod will be a permanent addition to Stamkos' body.
Still, there is this:
"Can we win without him?" coach Jon Cooper said. "The guys are pretty determined they can."
It could be a bumpy road in the short term as Tampa Bay also deals with injuries to defensemen Sami Salo (lower body) and Keith Aulie (upper body), neither of whom played Tuesday against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
Aulie and Stamkos were put on injured reserve, retroactive to Monday, to clear roster space for wing J.T. Brown and defenseman Dmitry Korobov from AHL Syracuse. Brett Connolly, a natural right wing, was moved to center, where he made a good showing during training camp.
Connolly centered the No. 1 line with wings Alex Killorn and Marty St. Louis. Brown was on the second line with center Valtteri Filppula and Teddy Purcell.
Korobov did not play, as Victor Hedman, Salo's usual partner, was paired with Andrej Sustr.
As important to the team's success as the right personnel will be maintaining the five-man defensive structure so crucial in a 13-5 start that has the team atop the Eastern Conference.
"We have to," St. Louis said. "It's gotten us where we are right now. We're well aware of what kind of piece we lost. Collectively, we have to move forward."
"We're going to play our system," Cooper said. "You can play anybody that's been in our system. You can pull guys in and out, and everybody knows what they're doing."
There is a psychological component to that as well that Cooper certainly will stoke.
"Stammer didn't score until his fourth game of the year, and we were 2-1 going into that game," Cooper said, and added, "Steven plays 20 minutes a night, so somebody else is playing the other 40."
No doubt Stamkos' offensive output will be missed. He entered Tuesday tied for league leads with 14 goals and 23 points.
But as Cooper said, "Everybody in that (locker) room is like, 'Let's prove to everyone we're not a fluke.' We're up near the top of the standings for a reason, and we're going to stay there."