Spirits were high at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Monday for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s morning skate compliments to a visit from Steven Stamkos.
“We hadn’t seen him in a while, so he brought a lot of smiles to guys here,” Martin St. Louis said. “It’s always great to see guys progressing after a tough injury. Stamkos is a warrior.”
Two weeks to the day of breaking his right tibia in Boston Stamkos surprised everyone by walking into his press conference unaided by crutches or a walking boot.
Yet no one may have been more shocked than Stamkos himself, who said he did not expect to have progressed so quickly in such a short amount of time.
“I didn’t think I’d be walking without a boot or a crutch less than two weeks after surgery,” Stamkos said. “I already started rehabbing and I feel pretty good.”
While there’s no timetable for his return to the ice Stamkos believes that walking with no support two weeks after surgery has to be a good sign.
“Hopefully whatever time frame it is, I’m ahead,” he said.
From here, Stamkos has already begun full-on rehab, where he will work on various movements, stretches and exercise for balance and stability. Stamkos also said he lost a few more pounds than he thought he would.
Though breaking his foot once in the minors (he played on it anyways), Stamkos could not remember a time he was seriously hurt saying, “you would have to go back to when I was eight or nine years old,” but he has handled the situation exemplarily.
“Before I went into surgery, I was still trying to pinch myself and hope it was a dream,” Stamkos said. “But then reality sets in. This is the hand you’ve been dealt, you have to deal with it, be strong and work hard. I think I’ve surprised myself about how positive and upbeat I’ve tried to be.”
Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara reached out to Stamkos the day after the injury through text as the spokesman for the team and head coach Claude Julien also paid him a visit in the hospital.
KUCHEROV BREAKS THE LINEUP
Maybe not expecting to get the call from the Bolts so soon, still Nikita Kucherov is “excited” to play in his first NHL game Monday against the Rangers.
“One of those guys who have that uncanny ability to put the puck in the net,” according to head coach Jon Cooper, Kuvcherov said, with a smile on his face, that “he loves to score goals.”
With a team trying to generate more offense after being outscored 17-6 in their past four games on the road, that is exactly what the Lightning want to hear.
“He kept getting better after we sent him to Syracuse,” Syracuse Crunch general manager Julien BriseBois said. “His vision is as good as anyone I’ve ever seen. He makes plays that other guys don’t even see. Kucherov has been arguably the best offensive player in the AHL, so he was the natural call-up.”
Kucherov has a team-leading 13 goals and 24 points in 17 games this season with the Crunch and is tied for second in the league for points. He was previously named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending November 3 when he recorded nine points (five goals, four assists) during a three-game week.
Cooper said that the recall is a little earlier than he would have liked, but Kucherov still left the head coach in awe of his natural ability during Monday’s skate.
“There was a couple times where we were doing a 2-on-1 drills and Lindback was sure he had the puck,” Cooper said. “I could see the puck behind him and Lindback is looking down for the puck and I give him the look and say ‘no sir, it’s behind you.’ He’s got that kind of ability.”
ODDS ‘N ENDS
St. Louis will be honored for his 1,000th game Monday at the Times Forum (skated in it last Tuesday in Los Angeles) and former teammate, now Ranger, Brad Richards will be on hand to witness from the opposing bench.
Kucherov will play on a line with Alex Killorn and Teddy Purcell. He played one game with Purcell during the preseason, but has never played with new lineate Killorn.
Radko Gudas (upper body) and Ryan Malone (lower body) will not play today, but head coach Jon Cooper did not rule them out for the rest of the homestand.