TAMPA — Steven Stamkos is injured. Again.
The Lightning’s captain had recovered from core muscle surgery in early March and had been part of voluntary on-ice workout sessions during the league’s coronavirus shutdown. He suffered a leg injury during those workouts and will not be a full participant when training camp opens Monday, general manager Julien BriseBois said Saturday.
BriseBois said during a Zoom media conference that he expected Stamkos to be available when the Lightning are scheduled to open round-robin play for Eastern Conference playoff seeding Aug. 3 in Toronto.
Stamkos suffered the core muscle injury in February and had surgery March 2. If the season had gone on normally, he was expected to miss at least the first round of the playoffs. The league’s shutdown gave him a chance to take his recovery slowly.
When the voluntary workouts opened June 9 with optional skating in small groups, Stamkos was one of the first Lightning participants. He had been skating before that because the league granted injured players access to arenas.
One of the questions around a return to play — a plan approved by the league and players Friday — has been if the league would see an increase in injuries as players return to structured workouts for the first time in months. The idea behind the voluntary sessions was to give them an opportunity to work their way back into skating shape.
Stamkos has dealt with three previous injuries this season.
He missed three games in November, starting with spending the third period of a game against the Blackhawks on the bench because the Lightning were already playing down a forward. Coach Jon Cooper said at the time only that Stamkos had aggravated a previous injury.
Then in early February, Stamkos missed another three games with a nagging groin issue. He returned to the lineup for five games before having the core muscle surgery, which was not believed to be connected to the groin issue.
Now, he has a leg injury. It all adds up to a lot of lower-body problems for Stamkos.
Stamkos has a history of major health issues.
In 12 seasons in the NHL, Stamkos missed four games or fewer in eight previous ones (including the 2012-13 48-game lockout season). But in total, he has missed 143 regular-season contests.
He broke his right leg in a 2013 game against the Bruins — a gruesome injury for which Stamkos was taken off the ice on a stretcher — and missed 46 games over four months.
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Stamkos had surgery for a blood clot near his collarbone in April 2016 near the end of the regular season and missed 21 ensuing games. He returned a month earlier than expected, in time for the Lightning to be eliminated from the playoffs in the Eastern Conference final against the Penguins with a Game 7 loss.
In 2016-17, Stamkos missed 65 games after tearing the lateral meniscus in his right knee. The impact of that injury has lingered; joints often don’t come back 100 percent. Stamkos has since referred to his “new normal:” Some days it hurts to get out of bed, and some days he’s good.
“You feel horrible for him, for the amount of games he’s lost,” forward Alex Killorn said when Stamkos left the lineup in February. “Credit to him: He’s always come back strong.”