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Steven Stamkos: Time might be running out for Lightning return this season

Steven Stamkos has been out since November knee surgery. “The knee is a tricky situation,” he says.
Steven Stamkos has been out since November knee surgery. “The knee is a tricky situation,” he says.
Published Mar. 24, 2017

BOSTON — You can see how much captain Steven Stamkos desperately wants to get back in the Lightning lineup.

But even Stamkos admitted Thursday that time might be running out.

Stamkos, 27, said progress has been slow in his recovery from mid-November knee surgery. He has been skating for a month; last Friday was his first full practice with the team.

Though the Lightning could certainly use Stamkos as it fights for its playoff life, the superstar center said the standings won't dictate his return. And Stamkos said he didn't know if he would be back in the nine games that remain after Thursday's 6-3 win against the Bruins.

"The knee is a tricky situation," Stamkos said. "It's something I've never had to deal with before. It's all new to me. There's a lot of movements that a knee is a big part of when you're skating, a lot of things you have to teach yourself over again when you're out as long as I was.

"I hope I'm on the right path. But time is kind of running out. I hope there's enough time I can help out or we can get back in the mix and get in the playoffs, and (I) hope to be ready then. I'll continue to take it day by day."

Stamkos said he won't play until he's 100 percent ready to and it's more about how he feels than a doctor's green light.

"A doctor can say it looks good, but it might feel awful," Stamkos said. "That's why it's hard to say, 'You can go play now.' If I know I can't play to the ability and (would) be a liability out there because I can't do a certain movement or this movement is painful, so I'll shy away from that, it's not fair to my teammates, not fair to myself to go out in that situation."

This season has been difficult to watch for Stamkos, with the pre-season Stanley Cup favorite in danger of missing the playoffs.

"It's been a frustrating season," Stamkos said. "Obviously, the expectations of ourselves, just in this (locker) room, never mind what the media had to say about us before the year. A lot of them picked us to go deep. We felt like we were capable.

"You can't control injuries, and that's slowed us down, for sure. We didn't play to our capabilities, and the trade deadline happened, and you see what happened there. And we went on this run that probably not a lot of people thought we could do to get back in the picture. Now we lose a few and everyone is writing us off again. We'll continue to battle to the end."

Medical matters

C Tyler Johnson (lower-body injury) is on the two-game trip — the Lightning is in Detroit tonight — but hasn't skated with the team since getting hurt March 9. He doesn't appear close to returning. … C Cedric Paquette (lower body) took part in the morning skate in a regular jersey. He said that though he won't play on this trip, he hoped to play next week. His condition is "way better than I thought," he said.

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Quote of the day

"I really want to go. Players have said (that) since Day One and haven't strayed away. We really want a chance to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Steven Stamkos, on players' desire to participate in the 2018 Olympics

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