TAMPA — Four months ago new Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos found himself working on an underwater treadmill, among other apparatus, diligently trying to make his way back from a broken tibia that required surgery on Nov. 12.
After suffering an injury known to keep patients in a cast and on the couch for months, Stamkos worked his way back ahead of schedule and was back on the ice and in the lineup in less than four months. He worked so hard and dedicated himself to getting back ahead of schedule, Stamkos said he has not had time to reflect back as he is focused on the now.
For his perseverance and dedication to the recovery process, Stamkos was selected by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association as the Lightning nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy awarded to the who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.
The award is voted on by the PHWA with the winner announced at the annual NHL Awards show in June.
“That’s one of the top honors you can have,’’ Stamkos said when informed of the selection. “To be able to go through something like I did this year and have the support that I did. I’ve always kind of prided myself as being a person who is dedicated and works extremely hard, and lets the skill part take over from there. To be named to something like that is a pretty special honor and is one of the things that means the most to me. I want to be remembered as someone who extremely dedicated, loved the game and worked hard no matter what the circumstance.’’
Since his return Stamkos has scored 10 goals and 14 points in 16 games heading into Tuesday, and was one off the team lead with 24 goals on the season.
“If you consider that if that injury happened to any one of us, we wouldn’t be (playing hockey),’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “He came back after four months and jumped into the greatest league in the world, and I think that’s pretty impressive. ... He may end up leading our team in goals missing 45 straight games.’’
D Mike Kostka skated on Tuesday for the first time since suffering a concussion on April 1 after being hit by Montreal’s Douglas Murray late in the third period and suffering a concussion. Kostka was wearing a red no-contact jersey during Tuesday’s morning skate.
But after suffering his first career concussion, Kostka said he feels good, though there is no timetable for his return.
“I’m feeling a little better every day and following the proper protocol to make sure we are not pushing it too hard,’’ Kostka said. “I’m gradually picking things up so we don’t have any setbacks on the road to recovery. I think I’ve been pretty fortunate. I’ve talked to a handful of friends and guys in the room that have had some mild ones and some bad ones. I think that’s sort of the tricky thing, is you may not feel much and all of a sudden something out of the blue pops up.
“That’s why regardless of how you are feeling you just have to be really careful with the process to make sure you get back on time and as soon as possible.’’
Back in the mix
D Andrej Sustr spent the past two months in the minor leagues, but that was never part of the Lightning’s plans when sending down the rookie blue liner in January. While playing for the Syracuse Crunch in the American Hockey League, Sustr suffered two separate injuries - a concussion and a shoulder – that limited him to 12 games.
But he was called back up on Friday and jumped back right into the fray on Saturday, picking up his first career NHL goal in his first game back.
“The plan was always to get him back up here for playoff time,’’ Cooper said. “The plan was not for him to go to the minors and get hurt twice. Hindsight is twenty-twenty but we wanted him playing bigger minutes, more than he was playing here. But I liked his game back there. And as the game went on, everything was coming back.’’
Sustr said it took him a few shifts to get the NHL feel back.
“I would say reading the play, and figuring out how to play the game (in the NHL) again, it’s a little bit different down (in the AHL),’’ Sustr said. “So there was a little bit of an adjustment for me, but once I caught on I got better as the game went on.’’
Nuts and Bolts
LW Ondrej Palat had his third multi-goal game of the season. ... Tampa Bay scratched D Keith Aulie, D Mark Barberio, LW Ryan Malone, RW B.J. Crombeen, C Cody Kunyk and Kostka. ... G Andrey Vasilevskiy posted a 22-save shutout for Salavat in a 4-0 victory against Metallurg in the semifinals of the Kontinental Hockey League playoffs on Monday. Metallurg leads the best-of-seven series 2-1 with Game 4 scheduled to take place Wednesday. ... Inside the Lightning: The Captain and the Cup will air on Sun Sports Thursday following Tampa Bay’s game against Philadelphia. The feature focuses on Dave Andreychuk, captain of the 2004 Stanley Cup championship team.