TAMPA — Seeing Steven Stamkos skate hardly makes waves these days.
But Thursday, Stamkos took part in the morning skate with his Tampa Bay Lightning teammates for the first time since suffering a broken leg Nov. 11, participating in most of the drills while wearing a red no-contact jersey.
Though Stamkos has been back on skates for the past month, and in full gear since Jan. 2 in Calgary, Thursday marked the first time he was on the ice from the beginning of a session, instead of primarily before or after his teammates were done with formal practice.
“That was huge,” Stamkos said of being out for the full morning skate. “It’s not a full practice, but to be able to go out and not have to go on early or wait until the end to go on, Mike (Poirier, assistant medical trainer) talked last night that I wanted to go out and try it. It’s the best it’s every felt, and we are working extremely hard, but mentally it is a big hurdle to jump over to know that you can at least keep up with the guys, going on a two-on-one with Marty (St. Louis), but it does feel great.”
About the only disappointing moment is when Stamkos did not take part in power-play drills toward the end of the skate, a point Stamkos jokingly made to head coach Jon Cooper.
With each step forward Stamkos takes in his recovery, he is that much closer to returning to the lineup while also keeping an eye on participating for Team Canada at the Winter Olympics next month in Sochi, Russia. But there remains caution, as well, not to get too ahead of the medical advice.
“He’s been pretty eager to get out there, but I think as we talk about, his head is further ahead than his leg is,” Cooper said. “But I have no problem with that. I like his energy, his eagerness, but it’s just a sign that everyday he’s getting closer. So that is a good thing.’’
Stamkos continues to get X-rays every two weeks, with the 10-week X-ray scheduled in the middle of next week. As those tests continue to show everything is on the right path, Stamkos continues to test the limits of what he feels comfortable with on the ice.
“There is still a lot of room for improvement, but each day it’s getting better,” Stamkos said. “To be able to step on the ice (Thursday) and do some of those drills ... it was nice. It’s another step in the right direction, and hopefully it continues.’’
As Stamkos has stated since he sustaining the injury, he will not put himself or the Lightning at risk to make it back ahead of the Olympics.
“We are obviously working toward (the Olympics) and trying to get back even before that to get in some games here, but we’ll just take that week by week,” Stamkos said. “The doctors will come in and be the arbitrators in that regard. They know what the bone needs to look like in order for me to get back to 100 percent, and until it’s 100 percent they are not going to clear me to play.”
At some point during his pregame nap Tuesday, C Nate Thompson woke up not feeling well.
Hours later, those flu-like symptoms kept him out of the lineup against the New York Rangers, forcing him to miss his first game of the season.
“I felt fine Monday night (against Columbus), but I didn’t feel great after pregame (meeting on Tuesday), and when I woke up during my nap, it wasn’t good after that,” Thompson said. “I lost a little (weight), but (Wednesday) I just tried to rest, relax, eat bland food and drink as many liquids as I can.”
Thompson was scheduled to return tonight against the New York Islanders at the Forum.
Nuts and Bolts
D Sami Salo was expected to return to the lineup after missing the past two games with an ankle bruise. ... D Victor Hedman is scheduled to play in his 300th career game. ... With the third of five games within a week, the Islanders game marks the first time Tampa Bay has played five games in a week since 1995-96.