TAMPA — Steven Stamkos has been up on skates for more than a month now, so he was bound to fall at some point.
That happened on Thursday during the Lightning’s morning skate.
Stamkos has worn a red no-contact jersey the past week while participating in game-day practices. It has been 10 weeks since he had surgery to insert a titanium rod after the tibia in his lower right leg was broken on Nov. 11.
While going through a drill on Thursday, Stamkos took a spill near the boards. And though nobody exactly held his breath wondering if the two-time 50-goal scorer would get back up on his skates, it served as another mental hurdle for Stamkos to move past.
“I was kind of laughing,” Stamkos said of falling, “but it was kind of nice, mentally, to fall because it’s the first time I’ve fallen in 10 weeks. So, I had a good streak going.
“But just knowing everything was fine, I got right back up and didn’t feel any pain whatsoever. So, that was nice. And the next step will probably be doing some bumping with some guys into the boards and stuff like that. I still feel little tweaks here and there, but that’s more scar tissue that is breaking down.’’
There continues to be no target date for Stamkos to return to the lineup. He had his 10-week X-ray update Thursday night.
Throughout his recovery process, his goal has been to get back in the Lightning lineup before representing Canada next month in the Olympics in Sochi, Russia. After Thursday’s game against Ottawa, the Lightning have seven games remaining before the Olympic break, so a return would have to happen in the next three weeks.
Each day he steps on the ice, he feels is getting him closer to that return.
“Today was the most crossing over and keeping up with the play; I felt really good today,’’ Stamkos said. “A lot of this is mental, and I’ve learned that a lot through this process, just trusting that the bone is good. ...I know it is, but still certain movements you feel a little tweak and are a little cautious.
“Today was a big step in that. I did every drill and I could keep up, the pace was good. I thought today was a great day.’’
D Mark Barberio, who promised he would cut his hair when he scored his first NHL, is still working out the details to arrange his first visit to the barbershop in two years.
Barberio scored his first two career goals during Sunday’s victory at Carolina, but is working on a tie-in to a charitable organization before deciding when to get his hair cut and how much to take off after letting it grow for two years.
“I’ve got a few more days with it,’’ Barberio said. “We’ll figure out what is best with the charity. And if that means all of (the hair) then we’ll take all of it off.’’
Aulie back in
After missing six weeks with a broken hand, D Keith Aulie was back in the lineup for the second consecutive game. Aulie saw 11:42 of ice time in Carolina on Sunday, his first game since breaking his hand Dec. 5 against Ottawa.
“I thought it was a good game for him to come back because he had to play in his own zone and do a lot of things that you kind of want as he gets back into playing (defense) and battles,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “So, that was probably six practices worth in one game. I thought he did well and earned his right to get back into (a second game).’’
Nuts and Bolts
D Victor Hedman (leg) returned to the lineup after missing one game. The 23-year-old surpassed his previous career high (26) in points... D J-P Cote, C Tom Pyatt and RW Richard Panik were scratched. ... C Tyler Johnson extended his scoring streak to four games while recording his first career shorthanded goal, the fourth this season for Tampa Bay. Hedman has assisted on three of the four shorthanded goals.