COLUMBUS — Steven Stamkos did not travel to Columbus and will not play in Monday night’s game.
He did not participate in morning skate and did not have a stall in the dressing room. Coach Jon Cooper said Stamkos will not be out long term and could be available for Tuesday’s game against Pittsburgh.
The captain played Saturday against the Islanders, notching the empty-net goal with 1:02 left in the 3-1 Lightning victory. He missed three games back in November with a lower-body injury and has taken “body maintenance” days off from a few practices and even morning skates this season.
Stamkos re-aggravated a previous injury early in the Nov. 21 game at Chicago, but stayed on the bench as the team was already playing down a forward. He missed the next three games, the first he’d missed in two seasons. But this issue is not connected to that injury.
Ondrej Palat took morning skate in Stamkos’ spot with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. Alex Killorn moved back to Anthony Cirelli’s wing with Tyler Johnson.
The Lightning also recalled Mathieu Joseph from the AHL, and he took line rushes with Cedric Paquette.
The team sent Joseph down to find his game on Dec. 18, then recalled him for three games due to a different injury, before sending him back. Joseph had impressed as a rookie last season but only had four goals in 31 games when he was reassigned. He has five goals and 14 points in 20 AHL games.
“I got a lot of ice time down there, worked a lot with the coaches and a lot of video,” Joseph said. “It’s always good to practice and get better individually. They helped me down there.”
It was tough mentally when Joseph was first re-assigned, but he knew he needed to learn from the adversity and grow through this.
The AHL schedule, with games mostly on the weekends and some Wednesdays, allows for more practice than you get in the NHL. That meant time to work on things like puck protection, battles, skating and the shot. Then when he got on the ice for games, Joseph got more ice time, which translates to touching the puck more. Making plays without the fear of messing up in turn leads to confidence.
“I wasn’t playing my best hockey when I was here," he said. “Battling needs to be higher for me and my work ethic needs to be higher than what it was. So I’m going to try to bring it up.”