Steven Stamkos will not be in the lineup when the Tampa Bay Lightning play the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Sunday (8 p.m ET; NBC, SN, TVAS, NHL.TV).
“He’s not available right now,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Saturday. “Again, he’s rehabbing. When he’s going to be available, I’ll let you know.”
Cooper did not elaborate how long the forward might be out.
“There’s no further updates,” he said. “I’ll address it when he becomes available but it’s pointless to keep asking about it.”
Stamkos, who had surgery to repair a core muscle injury March 2 and missed the final five games before the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, sustained a lower-body injury before training camp. He did some drills with the top power-play unit during camp but did not go through a full practice until the Lightning arrived in Toronto, the East hub city, on July 26.
“Anytime you have a surgery there’s going to be things that are certainly connected with one another,” Stamkos said July 27. “There was a stretch for 4-5 weeks when I was skating when I was feeling really good. Obviously, there was no contact and no gamelike situations during that time, so I was feeling good.
“Then I hit a little rut. Definitely all related …”
Stamkos missed the Lightning’s three games during the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, which they won in five games. He was second on the Lightning with 66 points (29 goals, 37 assists) in 57 games during the regular season, behind forward Nikita Kucherov, who scored 85 points (33 goals, 52 assists) in 68 games.
Defenseman Victor Hedman said Stamkos, Tampa Bay’s captain, continues to leave a positive mark even though he hasn’t been able to play.
“He’s the captain for a reason and he’s shown that,” Hedman said. “Even when he’s not playing, he brings a positive mindset and positive outlook into the locker room, and it rubs off on guys.
“We’re blessed to have a captain like that.”