Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos on leadership fast track with Marty St. Louis out

COLUMBUS, Ohio — For Lightning center Steven Stamkos, the equation was pretty simple.

With star wing Marty St. Louis out for who knows how long with facial fractures, a leadership void had to be filled.

Stamkos said he knew it would be a team effort. Even so, "I told myself I had to step up, whether it was in the room or lead by example on the ice. It had to be done because we knew what we were missing with Marty out."

Stamkos has risen to the occasion, getting three goals and five points in the past two games. His legs look fresh, and his average 23:41 of ice time in the four games St. Louis has missed since being hit by a puck Dec. 8 dwarfs his 20:40 season average.

As an exclamation point, Stamkos' 19 goals are tied for the league lead, and his 35 points are tied for fourth.

"We didn't expect anything less," St. Louis said. "The kid has the most goals in the league the past three years. He's hungry. He looks hungry out there."

For Stamkos, 21, St. Louis' injury offers an interesting opportunity.

"I'd rather have Marty on the ice," Stamkos said.

But St. Louis' absence — he will miss his fifth game tonight against the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena — gives Stamkos a chance to flex his leadership muscles a little more than he might have otherwise.

Stamkos said before the season he wanted to cultivate more of a leadership role, and coach Guy Boucher made him an alternate captain when defenseman Mattias Ohlund was injured.

By filling the void left by St. Louis, what Stamkos said has been a gradual development of his leadership acumen will go on the fast track.

"He's affirming himself, whether it's verbally, on the ice or off the ice," Boucher said. "You can see when somebody wants something, and he wants it. He's not folding. He's charging right through in terms of actions. That's leadership."

"He's done real well," defenseman Eric Brewer said. "He's a guy who really cares and wants to make a difference every day. He's a great example of coming to work and using your skills. He's a great kid and a great player."

Part of Stamkos' development as a leader has been time.

He is in his fourth season, has experienced a playoff run and in 2009-10 tied Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the league lead in goals.

As a result, Stamkos said he is "more comfortable within my surroundings" and able to speak up in the locker room or on the bench as needed.

"I feel part of the leadership group," he said. "You feel you do have to step up and say things because players respect you. You've been in the league a couple of years and been through … situations that gradually make you a leader."

"He's been under Marty and Vinny's wing," Boucher said of St. Louis and captain Vinny Lecavalier, "but I think those days are behind. Marty and Vinny have done a terrific job with him, but now you see the upside of what they've done. But it also comes from (Stamkos') character … someone who wants to take the torch and skate with it."

ST. LOUIS UPDATE: St. Louis was able to work out off ice Friday for the first time since his injury because the blood clot in his left eye has dissipated. Before he can practice, his depth perception must return. In the meantime, St. Louis said, he might begin skating on his own.

GILROY UPDATE: Defenseman Matt Gilroy, who left Thursday's game against the Flames because of a lower-body injury, might sit out against the Blue Jackets, Boucher said.

.TONIGHT

Lightning at Blue Jackets

When/where: 7; Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

Key stats: The Blue Jackets' 14 home points (6-9-2) are worst in the West. … Lightning D Victor Hedman has four assists in his past four games. … C Dominic Moore has a goal and three assists in a four-game points streak. … G Mathieu Garon is 6-1-1 with a tie against the Blue Jackets, with a 2.30 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage. … Columbus is 1-12-2 when opponents score first and has been outscored 40-22 in the third period.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos on leadership fast track with Marty St. Louis out 12/16/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 17, 2011 12:34am]

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