To say Steven Stamkos is at loose ends is probably overstating things a bit.
But the Lightning's All-Star center has a lot of free time on his hands, thanks to the NHL lockout, that extra work in the gym and playing pickup games at the local rink just can't fill.
"I guess it's the old saying, you don't realize what you have until you lose it," Stamkos said. "For me, my whole life has been hockey, and now you don't have that. It's tough."
From the sound of things, it is not going to get better soon.
The league, perhaps today, will cancel the Jan. 1 Winter Classic. The NHL and players association haven't formally negotiated since Oct. 18 and have no plans to resume.
So, Stamkos, 22, who last season became the first NHL player in four years to score 60 goals, contemplates playing in Europe — "I'm going to see what happens in the next two or three weeks before I go any further" — takes advantage of extra opportunities to see family and friends, and tries to stay in some kind of hockey shape.
That means working three days a week with fitness guru and former Lightning player Gary Roberts, who has trained Stamkos the past several summers and whose gym is near Stamkos' Toronto-area home.
Stamkos also works two or three days a week with Jari Bryski, who runs a hockey school in Toronto and has coached Stamkos on skating and stick skills since he was 8.
"For now," Stamkos said, "I'm planning that there will be some sort of a season."
Until then, he must deal with a new reality.
Stamkos has played organized hockey since age 3 and said it's weird for the first time since then not to be playing when his body and mind are saying he should.
"You don't realize how routine-oriented you are," he said, "Training in the summer, you're always gearing up for camp. When you're at camp, you're gearing up for an exhibition game. Everything is hockey-related.
"So, it's trying to find a new routine to get into. It took a while, but I'm finally settling in. I've got my workouts. I've been going to skates and trying to keep in the best shape I can, not to do anything crazy, but just maintain all the hard work you've put in over the summer."
The thing with Stamkos is how far he has progressed the past two seasons, not only on the ice but as a team leader.
Because he has learned how to create scoring chances from anywhere in the offensive zone, he no longer is dependent on his power-play one-timer for goals.
After games, Stamkos' thoughtful perspective makes him, win or lose, a go-to guy for reporters.
If Lightning coach Guy Boucher is worried further development will be delayed by what might be a missed season, he is not saying.
"He's picked up all the tools to be able to be a consistent two-way winner," Boucher said. "He wants to take another step this year."
"He's one of the fastest skaters in the league and wants to be faster," Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "That tells you how hard he works."
That tells you he wants to tie up any loose ends.
NOTES: The good news, wing Marty St. Louis said, is Hurricane Sandy pushed water only to the front door of his new Greenwich, Conn., house. "But the back yard," he said, "is part of the ocean." … Goaltender Mathieu Garon is back skating at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon after playing two exhibition games with fellow NHL players in Canada's Quebec province. "It was good to be on the ice in a game," the Quebec City resident said, "but there was no defense."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected] Read his blog is at lightning.tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.