TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos said no date has been set for his possible return because there is still too much unknown as he recovers from a broken right tibia, even as it appears his rehabilitation is ahead of schedule.
Reports of a possible Feb. 6 return date for Stamkos continue to be floated around, but Stamkos said no such date has been set.
“There is no timetable,” he said. “You can set goals, you could hope to be back by certain dates, but it’s all up to how fast the bone is healing. So, that’s why it’s a little tricky.’’
There is no question Stamkos would like to be back on skates and in the Lightning lineup by early February and also have the chance to represent Canada in the Olympics later that month. While that is his goal and nobody has said he can’t do it, there is still a long road of recovery before anything is determined.
“It’s really up to the bone,” Stamkos said. “You have no say in that and getting clearance just to skate or have contact and obviously be cleared to play if the bone is fully healed. For some people it’s less time, for some it’s more.
“That’s why we can’t have the guessing games of when I will be back. If everything goes well and the bone heals the way it’s supposed to, I would love to be back by (early February), but we won’t know until we get close to that point.’’
As Stamkos continues to rehab, he’s been around the locker room as much as possible, even going out of his way to make sure he’s at the rink at the same time as the rest of the team. He’s even been with the team “virtually’’ in the locker room for road games via Skype.
“I know he is a young by age, but a lot of the players in this room look up to him,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “So, for him to make an appearance around here, he wants to win, he wants to be a part of it and I know it’s killing him not to be. But the more he’s around us and we’re around him it’s just better for all of us.’’
At the end of the month, Stamkos intends to fly to Toronto to spend some time with family during the holidays, but also to continue his workout program with former teammate Gary Roberts, whom Stamkos works with during the summer. Perhaps that will help to break up some of the monotony of his days right now.
“It’s a little bit of Groundhog Day,’’ Stamkos said. “The first two weeks you’re excited, you’re coming to the rink and you’re seeing a lot of progression. Now that you’re walking around, you are stable, you are fine now it’s kind of a daily thing doing a lot of the same exercises.
“...I think I’ve gotten to that stage now you just have to remind yourself that it’s going to be a long road and you just have to work hard and keep focused and do what you can.’’
Injuries still mounting
Tampa Bay started Thursday with seven defensemen dressed, but by the end of the second period only five remained after Victor Hedman and Keith Aulie both left the game with injuries sustained.
Hedman suffered an unspecified lower body injury at some point during the first period and did not come back out for the second. Aulie missed the final 7:14 of the second period and did not come out for the third period after suffering what is believed to be a hand injury, though the team reported it as an upper body injury.
That adds to a list that already includes defensemen Radko Gudas (upper body) and Eric Brewer (lower body) as well as Brian Lee, who has missed the entire season with a knee injury. The Lightning are also without forwards Stamkos, Ryan Malone (broken ankle) and Tom Pyatt (broken collarbone).
Brewer missed his second consecutive game with an unspecified lower body injury he said he suffered during practice last week. But after skating briefly on Thursday, he said getting back into the lineup on Saturday is a possibility.
“It was just something that was not feeling as well as it should have, but it’s feeling much better now,’’ he said. “I’ve noticed a big difference each day, so (Friday) we’ll try to do more of the same and do as much as I can without being stupid.’’
Gudas is also expected to be ready to return on Saturday after missing give games with an upper body injury sustained during a fight in Anaheim on Nov. 22.
Nuts and Bolts
D Matt Taormina made his season debut after being called up from Syracuse after being called upon Wednesday. ... RW Richard Panik was a healthy scratch.