ORLANDO - Following the disappointment of missing out on the Olympics, Steven Stamkos took a few days away from the rink and the rehab to refocus on his return.
After the brief rest, Stamkos returned to the ice last week along with the rest of his non-Olympian teammates looking as good as ever 14 weeks after suffering a broken right tibia. Though he pushed hard to be ready to return before the break and represent Canada at the Olympics, a CT scan performed on Feb. 5 revealed the bone was not quite healed enough to clear his return.
Now, after declaring the leg "feels the best it has'' during the recovery process, Stamkos hopes the full clearance will come on Monday when he has his next round of X-rays to determine if he will be able to return to the lineup on Thursday in Nashville.
"It did feel good (on Feb. 5), but it feels even better now," Stamkos said. "Maybe I wasn't as far along as I thought, knowing how much better it has felt now that I have kept working on it and taking a couple of days off. It's just going to continually get better, and that's positive knowing it's doing that.''
While the final determining factor will be the doctors' evaluation, there are tell-tale signs that Stamkos will be ready to return in the short term.
"I think if you were to ask him if he could play right now, he would definitely say he could,'' Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "There were a lot of times he said he was OK, but you could tell he was feeling the effects of some pain. I don't see that anymore. Time is healing the wound.''
And with the pressure of trying to be ready by a certain date behind him, his focus now is more narrow than it was at the beginning of the month.
"I think now it was kind of a relief for that whole thing to be over and done with," Stamkos said. "Just to get all that stuff out of the way and to focus on one thing, and that's getting back and playing for Tampa.''
Addition on defense
The Lightning claimed D Mike Kostka off waivers from Chicago on Sunday. Kostka will join the team this week.
The 28-year-old has appeared in 44 career NHL games between Toronto and Chicago, scoring two goals and 11 points. He made his NHL debut last season with the Maple Leafs after spending his first four seasons in the American Hockey League.
Kostka will be reunited with Cooper, who coached Kostka in Norfolk in 2011-12, when the Admirals captured the Calder Cup championship and set a North American record by winning 28 consecutive games to end the regular season.
Carle is fine
D Matt Carle went on the ice briefly before practice on Saturday, but he left before the rest of his teammates hit the ice and went for an off-ice workout.
Carle did not practice any of the four days since the team reconvened during the Olympic break, resting a foot issue from a blocked shot. He said he's been dealing with it for about a month, but it did not keep him out of any games.
With the season resuming Thursday, Carle expects to be on the ice for practice today and doesn't anticipate missing any time when the schedule kicks off again.
"Not skating for two weeks helps, but I guess it's just one of those things that are just annoying,'' Carle said. "We'll see how the next two days go, stick to the rehab and try to get it better as much as we can.''
Nuts and Bolts
G Riku Helenius had his contract officially terminated after he cleared unconditional waivers on Sunday. ... RW Marty St. Louis is the second player to earn an Olympic goal medal while playing for the Lightning. LW Fredrik Modin was a member of Team Sweden, which defeated Finland in the championship game in Torino, Italy, in 2006. ... Tampa Bay will resume practice today at 11 a.m. at the Times Forum.