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Lightning’s Steven Stamkos returns after false positive coronavirus test

The captain was a full participant in Monday’s morning skate and said he’s “ready to go.”
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos missed the past two games due to a lower body injury and false positive coronavirus test. He returned to game action Monday night.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos missed the past two games due to a lower body injury and false positive coronavirus test. He returned to game action Monday night. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Feb. 15
Updated Feb. 16

TAMPA — Steven Stamkos took his two-day stint on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list in stride, glad he could get a false positive test resolved quickly and return to the ice.

Stamkos was back Monday night for the Lightning’s home game against the Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena after an unusual past four days.

He spent two days on the NHL’s COVID-19 list, making him unavailable for Saturday’s road win against Florida. He also missed Thursday’s loss to the Panthers with a lower body injury.

Stamkos initially suspected a false positive, but still had to quarantine and provide consecutive negative tests.

“We’re pretty strict with our protocols here and I’m pretty strict with the way I go about my business so we kind of had a really good sense that it was going to be a false positive and it turned out it was,” Stamkos said. “The last couple days sucked because you can’t skate, you can’t go in with the guys, you can’t get the treatment that you want. But that’s the protocol and it’s to create a safe environment and I’m just excited to be back.”

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Stamkos likely would not have played Saturday anyway because of his injury, but the captain was unable to be around the team and had to deal with the possibility of being infected.

“I can see how that would be frustrating for the guys not only in the sense of not playing games but actually sitting there having to go through the mental gymnastics of (asking yourself), ‘Do I have COVID?’” Cooper said. “It’s tough when you’re being tested every single day (and) you may run into that issue.

“But in the big-picture things you’d rather run into that issue with a player and have them miss one game out of a safety precaution (than) a player play the whole game actually test positive and then (have a team outbreak like in) New Jersey and Buffalo.”

On Monday night, Stamkos returned to the Lightning’s first forward line and the top power-play unit, scoring the game’s first goal on a one-timer from the left circle 6:24 into the opening period.

“It’s not the first time and not the last time we’re going to see that probably around the league,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said of Stamkos’ false positive. “We’re trying to do everything we can to obviously play every game but there’s going to be hiccups along the way. All we can do is be very disciplined away from the rink and in the rink. A false positive is something that you can’t control.”

Lightning promote two to taxi squad

The Lighting recalled forwards Alex Barre-Boulet and Ross Colton to the team’s practice squad from the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch.

Both Barre-Boulet, 23, and Colton, 24, played well in this season’s training camp and in summer camp before last postseason. With forward Anthony Cirelli out undefinitely with an upper body injury, the Lightning’s depth will be tested.

Barre-Boulet and Colton were just three games into the Crunch’s season when recalled Monday. Barre-Boulet has three goals and four points, including two in Syracuse’s last game on Saturday. Colton has three points — one goal and two assists — and had points in each of Crunch’s first three games.

Taxi squad players practice and travel with the team, and can be called on at anytime for game duty.

“Like we tell our guys all the time,” Cooper said. “You’ve got to be a pro. But it’s hard to be that if you don’t see like a tunnel so our staff is really good at communicating with these guys and working at their game and saying, ‘Hey, you will not be overlooked or bypassed when your time comes.’”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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