TAMPA — When Lightning star C Steven Stamkos slipped and fell to the ice during Thursday's morning skate, he didn't hold his breath or his surgically repaired right leg.
"I was kind of laughing," Stamkos said. "But it was kind of nice, mentally, to fall because it's the first time I've fallen in 10 weeks. So I had a good streak going. But just knowing everything was fine, I got right back up and didn't feel any pain whatsoever. So, that was nice."
Stamkos said Thursday's skate was a big step in his recovery from a broken right tibia. He still wore a red (noncontact) jersey, but he participated in every drill for the first time and believed that he kept up. The next step would be getting cleared for contact.
There's still no timetable for Stamkos' return. His goal is to be back to play for Canada in the Sochi Olympics next month, and there's seven Lightning games between now and then. Stamkos, who was set to have his 10-week X-ray Thursday night, remains optimistic he's on the right track.
"(Thursday) was the most crossing over and keeping up with the play; I felt really good," Stamkos said. "A lot of this is mental, and I've learned that a lot through this process, just trusting that the bone is good. … I know it is, but still certain movements you feel a little tweak and are a little cautious.
"(Thursday) was a big step in that. I did every drill and I could keep up, the pace was good. Even taking that little spill helps mentally that things are going to be okay when you get up. I thought (Thursday) was a great day."
QUICK RETURN: D Victor Hedman returned to the lineup Thursday feeling fortunate to miss just one game after getting hit in the inner right leg with a shot Saturday. "It hurt a little bit, stung for a few days, but I feel lucky that it wasn't anything major," said Hedman, who had three assists. "The way it hit me, I felt mad. You don't want to get hurt at this point of the season. But I'm happy I only missed one game."
NOT SO FAST: Though D Mark Barberio promised he'd cut his hair after his first two NHL goals Sunday, his long, black locks will remain intact for a couple more days. That's because Barberio is trying to find the right charitable tie-in for his first haircut since January 2012. "It'll be interesting," he said. "I think it'll be good, at least give the hair some meaning."
GOOD CAUSE: RW B.J. Crombeen said his Type 1 diabetes fundraiser Tuesday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum raised $70,000 for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Crombeen, diagnosed when he was 9, co-hosted the event with Rays OF Sam Fuld and Bucs TE Tom Crabtree,.
NUTS AND BOLTS: D Keith Aulie played for the second consecutive game after missing six weeks with a broken hand. … Crombeen returned to the lineup after being scratched the previous four games. D Jean Philippe Cote, RW Richard Panik and C Tom Pyatt were scratched.
. Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TBTimes_JSmith.