TORONTO — With Steven Stamkos present at the Air Canada Centre Tuesday morning the media assembled in the building watched his every movement on the ice, followed every drill he participated in and rushed to the bowels of the arena as soon as Stamkos came off the ice to get in some question-and-answer time.
With the Olympics set to begin in just over two weeks, the one question surrounding Team Canada leading into the tournament is whether Stamkos will be able to play for his country three months after suffering a broken leg on Nov. 11?
That question remains unanswered.
“There’s going to be a lot of discussion and a lot of conversation over the next couple days in regards to how it’s feeling,’’ Stamkos said after skating for about 20 minutes with the team Tuesday morning.
“The goal was, I would like to get at least in one game if I’m going to play in the Olympics, so we are still on that track right now. We’re on the road here for nine days and I’ll get an opportunity to skate with the guys as much as I can and do the stuff off the ice that I need to. So, we’ll see where it goes from there.’’
Although the goal has been to appear in games with the Lightning at some point next week, in the final three games before the Olympic break, Stamkos said on Tuesday that there remains a chance he could head to Sochi, Russia, and potentially participate in the Olympics even if he does not appear in an NHL game.
“It’s going to be about how my body feels. If I feel like I can compete to that level whether it’s two games, one game or even if I don’t play a game and feel great heading into the tournament, that’s a discussion that we are going to have to have,’’ Stamkos said.
“The objective is to play a game, that would be something that I would really love to do. But if that’s not the case then it’s going to be another discussion about whether or not I’m still going to be on that team if I can’t play a game. We have not had a discussion about that yet, we’ve had brief discussions about it, but it’s more of let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.’’
Some panic set in on Monday when Stamkos did not skate with the team, as was previously planned, after feeling some pain in the leg. On Tuesday, however, he was back out on the ice, this time wearing a regular blue jersey instead of a red no-contact or gold light-contact jersey.
“I felt a lot better today,’’ Stamkos said. “Yesterday I took the day off of the ice, I did an off-ice workout and I felt a lot better today. Obviously we were smart with it and it paid off.’’
Former Lightning D Paul Ranger returned to the NHL this season, signing with Toronto in the offseason four years after leaving the Lightning for personal reasons.
Ranger played parts of five seasons with Tampa Bay, but eight games into the 2009-10 season left the team and did not return afte back-to-back summers in which he had surgery on each shoulder. He returned to hockey last season with the Toronto Marlies in the American Hockey League before signing with the Leafs.
Ranger has never discussed the reasons he left the Lightning and stated again on Tuesday that “my personal life is my personal life.’’
As far as his return to the NHL, the transition has not gone as well as he hoped. He was scratched Tuesday for the 11th consecutive game.
“The game has changed a little bit,’’ Ranger said. “But what I can control is my effort and when I get my chance to play, play the best I can and play the way they want me to play. ...So, it’s tough and it’s a mental challenge. I just look forward to my next opportunity.
“Overall things are going well, I’m happy where I’m at.’’
Nuts and Bolts
G Ben Bishop makes his seventh consecutive start since returning from a wrist injury. ...G Jonathan Bernier is scheduled to start for Toronto. ... C Tom Pyatt and D J-P Cote will be scratched for Tampa Bay.