NHL insider Chris Johnston joins HC to discuss the status of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who was on the ice with teammates for the first time since the bubble, and even at 50 percent health, could really provide a boost to their PP.
Limited to a single goal in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup Final series, the Tampa Bay Lightning will have to find offence in Game 2 on Monday without Steven Stamkos once more — despite encouraging signs that his return may be on the horizon.
On Sunday, after the Bolts fell 4-1 to the Dallas Stars in the first match of the post-season’s final stretch, head coach Jon Cooper said captain Steven Stamkos is “inching closer” to a return.
Monday morning, the captain was once again out with his team for a morning skate but was not present for pre-game warmups.
Braydon Coburn, Jan Rutta and Carter Verhaeghe are all on the ice for #TBLightning warmup. Steven Stamkos is not. Nor is Luke Schenn or Zach Bogosian.
“You don’t get this many chances to be where we are and he wants to be a part of it, which he has,” Cooper said Sunday. “He’s collectively helped the group on the mental side of things, but he wants to be part of it on the ice as well. We’re not sure when that’ll be. We’re hopeful he’ll come back at some point in this series, but there’s no way we can tag that. When he’s not on the ice, he’s been an influential leader off the ice.”
Stamkos has yet to play in the 2020 post-season, suffering an injury before the club reconvened from the season pause to begin training. The centreman’s last appearance game came back in late February — his exit from that Feb. 25 tilt ending a 15-game, 22-point scoring streak.
Cooper noted Sunday that the club would prefer Stamkos be up to speed before making a potential return.
“If [he does return], you have to make sure the player’s conditioned enough,” Cooper said. “You need guys to be able to contribute. He wouldn’t want that, either. Nobody wants to go into a game and sit on the bench the whole time. You have to be ready to play minutes and contribute. But we have a full medical staff, and Steven will be the first to tell you if he can go or not. If that time comes, he’ll be put in to play, not just sit on the bench.”
While Stamkos has skated with the team during optional practices and morning skates as of late, his work with the other scratches Monday indicated Game 2 was still likely too soon for a return.
Jon Cooper on Steven Stamkos: « We don’t reveal anything about our lineups, so you’ll have to tune in tonight to find out. » Judging from Stamkos staying on ice late with scratches, I don’t think he is, but that’s just reading tea leaves.
#tblightning Jon Cooper said a lot of people are in on the decision whether Steven Stamkos will play, including Stamkos. Didn’t provide update on whether he’d play tonight
Watch Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and SN NOW.
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