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Lightning's Stamkos unlikely to play Game 7

Tampa Bay captain practices, says no change in status

par Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is not expected to play in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"No status change, no," Stamkos said after morning skate. "I'm just working hard and that's about it. So, nothing really to change."

Stamkos, who has not played since March 31, had surgery April 4 to remove a blood clot near his right collarbone. He has been skating with the Lightning for more than four weeks, but continues to take blood thinners and has not received the green light to resume playing yet.

As much as Stamkos, 26, would like to be on the ice with his teammates for Game 7, he expressed faith they can get the job done against the Penguins without him and reach the Stanley Cup Final for the second year in a row.

"We've got another game to win tonight, so that's the focus," Stamkos said. "The guys have done a great job of getting us a chance to be one game away from the Stanley Cup Final. You talk about that at the beginning of the year, especially after what we went through last year, [and] you'd take that every day of the week, so we're excited."

The Lightning missed on a chance to close out the best-of-7 series Tuesday, losing 5-2 in Game 6 at Amalie Arena, but were in the same situation in last year's Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers and won 2-0 in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.

"We went through this before as a group, so the guys are definitely comfortable in this situation," Stamkos said. "They know the way we've got to play. It was a perfect example last year at Madison Square Garden. It's going to be a hostile environment. Obviously, they've got great fans and a great crowd. They're going to be behind them. We've got to play a good, solid road game like we did last year.

"It's tough when you can't close it out at home, but, again, it's the most exciting game of a lot guys' careers, Game 7 in the conference finals to get another crack at the Stanley Cup. We'll be ready."

Stamkos' contract expires after this season and he could become an unrestricted free agent July 1, but he didn't want to discuss the possibility of his Lightning career ending Friday without him getting a chance to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year.

"I'm not thinking about that," he said.

Stamkos also didn't want to speculate on whether he'd be able to play in the Cup Final against the San Jose Sharks should the Lightning advance.

"We've got to win tonight, so let's focus on tonight," he said. "Like I said, the guys did an unbelievable job to get here, so we'll deal with whatever comes after tonight when the time comes."

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