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Stamkos Ready To Move Past Prognosis And Focus on Lightning Return

by Missy Zielinski / Tampa Bay Lightning

It didn't just come as a surprise to the hockey world when the Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos was not cleared in time to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The two-time Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy winner was surprised as well.

Ahead of schedule for nearly all of rehab, Stamkos anticipated not only competing in Sochi with Team Canada, but playing two games with the Lightning before the Olympics even started.

"It was a little shocking to be honest, we were all a little surprised," Stamkos said. "I was probably expecting to play tonight based on how I was feeling and how the previous X-ray went.

"I wish we would have done the CT scan a little earlier, so I didn't have my hopes as high as I did heading into Wednesday's meeting with the doctors."

With all the hard work the 23-year-old, who is now one-game shy of missing exactly half of the 2013-14 campaign, has put in, he was unable to completely express his emotions after withdrawing his name from Canada's roster.

"I don't think you can really put into words the feelings I've felt the past 24 hours," Stamkos said. "But I can honestly sit here and say we as a team did everything possible to give myself a chance.

"At the end of the day all I wanted to do was look myself in the mirror and say I did all I could to give myself a chance. The fact that we're here talking about this and being so close is not quite a consolation prize, but at least I can look myself in the mirror."

Head coach Jon Cooper also reinforced that Stamkos was handling the news well and was ready to continue down what has been a long road to his return.

"I'll tell you he's okay because I gave him the complete option not to go out on the ice today and he wanted to be out there with his team," Cooper said. "He didn't shy away from any of this; he has accepted what is happening. He understands this is a big blow to a dream of his, but he's not letting that get in the way of his comeback and it's pretty impressive."

Prior to Wednesday's news the Bolts had been planning on not having their superstar center back in time to play before the Olympics and Cooper is relieved that Stamkos now has time to rest his mental health.

"He needs to go on an island somewhere and sip on Mai Tai's and gather his thoughts, that's what he needs to do," Cooper said.

While Stamkos laughed in response to Cooper's suggestion, Stamkos said, as Stamkos would, these next two weeks will be imperative to hopefully being ready to re-join the team at the end of February.

"I wish I could do that," he said. "I'm sure I'll take a few days off, but these two weeks were either going to be me playing in the Olympics or me taking the time to get things going and get myself ready for the Lightning's playoff push."

Stamkos will stay in Tampa Bay and continue to rehab over the course of the next two weeks.

This situation was not the first time Stamkos came as close as he did as making a run with Team Canada too. In 2010 Stamkos also was brought up in the Olympic conversation.

"It was a cool experience being 19 at the time," he said. "This has obviously been a dream of mine since I was a kid."

Yet ultimately as disappointing as the past few days have been for Stamkos he continues to impress everyone around him with his maturity in the face of adversity.

"There is no classier kid," Cooper said. "You can see his leadership and character spewing out over the past 24 hours."

"One door's closing, another one's opening," Stamkos said. "I'll be going out their skating and going hard to make sure I'm ready for the Tampa Bay Lightning. As old of a cliché as it is, these times really test your character and probably make you a better person and player at the same time."

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