Lightning still optimistic about Steven Stamkos return

(Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Lightning are still optimistic regarding captain Steven Stamkos‘ ability to return to the lineup this postseason, but things are looking more and more grim from the outside. Stamkos – who hasn’t played since March – traveled with the team to the Toronto bubble and was practicing in full before suffering a setback following his core surgery.

Joe Smith of The Athletic tweeted out some quotes from head coach Jon Cooper on Friday regarding Stamkos’ availability as the Lightning prepare to head to Edmonton for the Eastern Conference Finals against either the New York Islanders or Philadelphia Flyers.

Stamkos has been visible courtesy of a few videos on the Lightning’s Instagram page, showing post win celebrations in the locker room, but despite Stamkos’ leadership and support the team is sorely missing him on the ice. Most notably on the power play.

Since the playoffs “officially” began – so, not including round robin games – the Lightning are a laughable 4-for-30 with a man advantage and a big part of that is Steven Stamkos missing from the left circle.

We saw the Lightning gain a little momentum on the power play in game three against Boston when Tampa Bay opted to have Nikita Kucherov quarterback the offense from the half wall, drawing defensemen towards him and opening opportunities for Mikhail Sergachev at the point or Alex Killorn in the middle. Without Stamkos, penalty kills are able to crash on Kucherov and force other players to score – which, for the most part, they haven’t been able to do.

Hopefully we see Stamkos sooner than later but it’s time to assume the Lightning will be without the captain for at least the Eastern Conference Finals.