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Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos in the mix for Canada's Olympic team

Steven Stamkos, left, fighting for position with Dallas’ Nicklas Grossman on Saturday, wants to make Canada’s Olympic team.

Associated Press

Steven Stamkos, left, fighting for position with Dallas’ Nicklas Grossman on Saturday, wants to make Canada’s Olympic team.

DALLAS — Though C Steven Stamkos may not have had making the Canadian Olympic team on his radar before this season, his red-shot start has him feeling he has "climbed into the mix."

Stamkos, the 2008 top draft pick, has a team-high 17 goals — he had one against the Stars on Saturday — and has emerged as one of the game's brightest young stars. "I want to be on the team; that's a goal of mine," Stamkos said. "I wouldn't say it was a top priority at the beginning of the year, but things developed, and it's definitely on my mind. I've got a month to prove I belong there."

Scotty Bowman, the Hall of Fame coach who counsels Team Canada, said Stamkos' play has definitely caught the attention of team organizers; team executive director Steve Yzerman "asks a lot about him," Bowman said.

Though Bowman said it's a tough team to crack because the crop of centers is so strong (Joe Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf, Mike Richards, Vinny Lecavalier, Sidney Crosby, etc.), he pointed out that the team will carry 13 forwards and may pick somebody who can play center and wing.

"I know (Stamkos is) on the radar … and he should be, too," Bowman said. "He's a good young player, no question about it. He's coming into his own."

WELCOME BACK: G Mike Smith, making his first trip to Dallas since being acquired from the Stars in February 2008, said he was excited to start against his former team, though it was a "little weird" being back.

"I had a good couple years here in Dallas, met a lot of good people," Smith said. "I can't say enough about the organization."

FAMILIAR FACE: Ex-Lightning C Brad Richards leads the Stars in points (32, with seven goals) and has continued to grow more comfortable in his second full season in Dallas.

"It's the best start for me, personally," said Richards, who had two assists Saturday. "And you know with my record for slow starts, it's been good to get some confidence going."

Richards said his start is a combination of having consistent linemates (James Neal and Loui Eriksson), being healthy and working hard over the summer at Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel, which "helped recharge the batteries."

Richards reconnected with good friends Marty St. Louis and Lecavalier for breakfast Saturday and said they still talk a lot. "We've been friends for a long time; that's not going to change."

TRIBUTE TALK: Rangers coach John Tortorella called Lightning management Saturday morning to thank it for the video tribute it gave him during Friday night's game at the St. Pete Times Forum. Tortorella said he was too focused on the game to react at the time but appreciated the fans' support. … Lightning associate coach Rick Wilson, who spent 15 years with the Stars as an assistant/associate coach, was thanked on the arena's JumboTron in the first period.

NUTS AND BOLTS: Coach Rick Tocchet said D Mattias Ohlund, who missed his seventh straight game with an ankle injury, is still very close to returning: "We're erring on the side of caution with him." … LW Todd Fedoruk was scratched.

Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos in the mix for Canada's Olympic team 11/28/09 [Last modified: Sunday, November 29, 2009 12:15am]
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