PITTSBURGH — That Lightning captain Steven Stamkos wore a blue jersey rather than a red noncontact one at Friday's optional morning skate created a buzz at Consol Energy Center.
It was really much ado about nothing, considering there was no contact in the optional skate before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final against the Penguins. Stamkos status hasn't changed; he's still sidelined while on blood thinners as he recovers from April 4 vascular surgery to fix a blood clot in his collarbone area.
But Stamkos said there's a chance he could play during the series. At least, he hopes.
"That's why I'm putting in the hard work," he said. "If there wasn't a chance, I'd have pom-poms out and be a cheerleader."
Stamkos has skated and practiced hard the past few weeks, including another hour-long session Friday, making sure he's ready when he's given the green light to play. He has done everything but contact drills.
The key continues to be when Stamkos can get off blood thinners, though he indicated he doesn't necessarily have to be off them to play. He said he could be on a different regimen of the medication, having discussed that option with doctors.
"Obviously you have to make sure there's zero risk when you're going out there playing," Stamkos said.
Hearing coming? RW Ryan Callahan could face league discipline for boarding Pittsburgh D Kris Letang in the first period of the Lightning's 3-1 win. Callahan received a five-minute major penalty three minutes into the game when he hit Letang from behind in the left corner of the Penguins zone. Letang, whose back was turned, had his head hit the boards. He left the game and later returned.
Getting closer: D Anton Stralman (fractured left leg) did not play in Game 1 and was unsure if he would be ready by Monday's Game 2. Stralman, out the past seven weeks, said he had progressed the past three days, when he had his first full-team skates with the team, including contact. "So far, so good," he said.
But he said he doesn't feel ready and would rather be a little cautious and take a few extra days rather rush back early and get a setback. Plus, he said, there's a mental hurdle to overcome in not thinking about the recently healed leg.
"That obviously exists," Stralman said. "I don't think you have to overcome it. I just think you have to start playing when you feel comfortable doing that stuff. I think there's no point going out on the ice and feeling those feeling. I'd rather get past that point, if that's the case."
Brown back: RW J.T. Brown (upper body) returned to the lineup after missing eight games. Brown went through two full team practices this week. He said he's close to feeling like he did before the injury, believed to be a hand or wrist.
"It's tough with only a few practices," he said. "But I'm definitely making the right steps."
D Slater Koekkoek played in his fifth straight game, and D Nikita Nesterov was back after being scratched the previous two. RW Jonathan Marchessault, RW Erik Condra and Mike Blunden were scratched.