Lightning star center Steven Stamkos, after his X-ray on Monday, said his broken right tibia is somewhere between 95 to 98 percent healed.
He and team medical director Ira Guttentag want him at 100 percent before he plays, which is why Stamkos will sit out the four-game road trip that begins Thursday at Nashville.
Barring any setbacks, Stamkos, who has missed 41 games and did not play for Canada at the Olympics, expects to play March 6 at home against the Sabres.
"It feels great," Stamkos said. "I feel like I'm ready to play. It's just a matter of getting the thing perfect, really, before I come back."
"We want to be smart," he said, "and make sure it's 100 percent healed."
Stamkos, 24, out since Nov. 11, when he crashed into a goalpost at Boston, said the X-ray revealed nothing unexpected. The bone is healing as it should and this is not a setback, just insurance.
Still, "Any time I can't play it is a little disappointing, for sure," Stamkos said. "I can't be sitting here saying I'm happy about it, but we're doing the right thing. We're playing it smart. I know I'm going to be back soon and that's very reassuring."
Stamkos said he will accompany the team on the road trip and continue his rehabilitation with full contact during practices. His next medical evaluation is March 5, which also is the NHL's trade deadline.
"Based on how I feel, I feel I can play to the level I need to," Stamkos said. "I just want to be really smart, which we were by not going to the Olympics. It progressed even more than I expected."