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Lightning needs Stamkos healthy for the long haul

Steven Stamkos missed Monday's game against the lowly Coyotes because of a lower body injury that Jon Cooper said is not serious
Steven Stamkos, right, shown with Nikita Kucherov early in March, sits out Monday night's game against Arizona.   [Times staff]
Steven Stamkos, right, shown with Nikita Kucherov early in March, sits out Monday night's game against Arizona. [Times staff]
Published Mar. 27, 2018

TAMPA – C Steven Stamkos missed his first game of the season Monday with a lower body injury that coach Jon Cooper said is not expected to sideline the Lightning's second-leading scorer for an extended period of time.

"No, not at all," Cooper said after the morning skate.

It does not appear the injury caused Stamkos to miss any time during the last two games. He logged 20 minutes, 42 seconds of ice time in Saturday's loss at New Jersey and 19:14 during Thursday's win against the Islanders in Brooklyn.

When he announced Stamkos was out for the 4-1 home loss to the Coyotes, Cooper added, "more maintenance for him and 100 percent, were not really right there yet. So, sit him out (Monday) and hopefully a little rest here will help him out."

Most players area dealing with some form of physical issue at this point of the season. Stamkos, who entered Monday tied for seventh in the NHL with 86 points, missed 65 games last season after undergoing season-ending right knee surgery. It's understandable if he needs a rest while playing his first full season in two years, especially with what the Lightning expect to be a long playoff run ahead.

Having Stamkos healthy for Thursday's showdown with the Bruins in Boston is more important than playing Monday against the Coyotes, who have the second-fewest points in the NHL.

"Ultimately making sure our team is healthy going down the stretch is the utmost importance," Cooper said. "We wouldn't be in the situation here if we didn't feel like it was necessary to get guys 100 percent healthy, so that's what we're going to do. There's no long-term fears whatsoever in this situation, but we want to make sure we got our guys ready."

Bolts and baseball

The Lightning continued its 25th anniversary celebration Monday by wearing Rays-themed jerseys during warmups. The light blue jerseys contained the Lightning's 25h anniversary patch as well as the patch the Rays will wear this season for their 20th anniversary. The jerseys also included a patch commemorating the Lightning's three seasons as the Thunderdome, now named Tropicana Field.

The jerseys are signed by the players who wore them and will be auctioned at www.TampaBayLightning.com/gameworns until 11 p.m. April 6. Proceeds will benefit the Lightning Foundation and the Tampa Baseball Museum at the Al Lopez House.

The Rays will wear Lightning-themed hats Friday during batting practice, and Lightning founder Phil Esposito will throw out the first pitch before the game against the Red Sox.

Lightning ball caps in the Rays light blue color with the Rays logo on the side and the Rays game caps with the Lightning logo on the side are available at Amalie Arena.

Slap shots

  • RW Ryan Callahan (upper body) skated Monday with a gray jersey but did not participate in drills. Cooper said Callahan is not close to returning.
  • Thursday’s game at Boston and Friday’s game at the New York Rangers have been moved to Fox Sports Florida.
  • Monday’s scratches were D Jake Dotchin, D Andrej Sustr, C Cory Conacher and G Peter Budaj.

Contact Roger Mooney at rmooney@tampabay.com. Follow @rogermooney50

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