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Stamkos' return could come in Olympics

TORONTO — Steven Stamkos would prefer to play in a game or two for the Lightning before playing for Canada at next month's Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

But the Lightning star, out since Nov. 11 with a broken right tibia, said for the first time it is not a prerequisite for his participation, though an "honest" discussion with Lightning and Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman would be needed.

"At the end of the day it's going to go on how my body feels and if I can play to that level," Stamkos said Tuesday. "Whether it's two games, one game, if I don't play a game and feel great heading into the tournament, that's a discussion that we're going to have with, first, our medical staff here in Tampa and then, obviously, with Steve Yzerman."

"If he gets a chance to play in a game next week, if he's cleared to play, great," Yzerman said. "If not, then depending on what the doctor says and how he feels, is he good to go for the first game of the tournament? He's the only one who really knows that."

Stamkos took another step at Tuesday's morning skate, participating for the first time with a regular jersey rather than a red no-contact or yellow caution jersey. Stamkos looked quick and confident, and the concern over soreness and a skipped Monday practice seemed forgotten.

It has been speculated that Stamkos would like to be in the lineup Feb. 6 at home against Toronto. That would give him two games, including Feb. 8 against Detroit, before Canada's Olympic opener Feb. 13 against Norway.

That timetable cannot happen, or be accelerated to include the game Feb. 4 at Minnesota, until Stamkos is cleared for full contact and, as he said, gets in "a couple good, hard practices with some hard contact."

"And we're not there yet," he added. "There's not a lot of time. If that's going to happen, it has to happen in the next week or so."

If Stamkos does not play for the Lightning before the Olympic break, he and Yzerman must put their heads together.

"We can be honest with each other," Stamkos said. "If I say I'm at the level I need to be to compete in the Olympics, I think he's going to have the trust in me that I can go over there and play at that level. But I have to be honest with him. If I say I'm not ready then, obviously, I'm not going to go."

"This is all up to Steven," coach Jon Cooper said. "This is his livelihood. This is who he is. So I know whatever happens it's going to be for the right reasons and not push things to jeopardize his future."

Hair today: D Mark Barberio, who will cut his hair to commemorate his first NHL goal, scored Jan. 19 at Carolina, said he likely won't do it until next month so it can be part of the Cut For a Cure fundraiser for pediatric cancer research.

Odds and ends: After getting zero goals in his first 31 games, Barberio has four in four. … RW Marty St. Louis' 10-game points streak ended. … RW J.T. Brown said his jaw was tight after a high hit from James van Riemsdyk. … ECHL Florida released D Brian Rafalski, who had not played since Jan. 18 because of a sore back. … F Tom Pyatt and D Jean-Philippe Cote were scratched.

Stamkos' return could come in Olympics 01/28/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 11:49pm]
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