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Lightning's Stralman takes part in full practice

Defenseman recovering from fractured fibula, hopes to face Penguins; no timetable for Stamkos

by Corey Long / Correspondent

BRANDON, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman on Wednesday participated in his first full practice since fracturing his left fibula on March 25.

Stralman wore a regular contact jersey and was paired with usual partner Victor Hedman during a drill. Stralman had been skating either on his own or in optional morning skates prior to joining the Lightning on Wednesday.

"Obviously, this is kind of the next step in the process in the rehab," Stralman said. "So we'll see how [the leg] reacts and go from there."

The Lightning will play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final; Game 1 is at Consol Energy Center on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Penguins advanced after eliminating the Washington Capitals in six games Tuesday in the Eastern Conference Second Round. The Lightning secured their spot after defeating the New York Islanders in five games in the second round.

Stralman had nine goals, 34 points and a plus-16 rating in 73 regular-season games and was second on the Lightning with an average ice time of 22:04 per game. He said there are still some limitations to what he can do, but he feels a lot better overall. Stralman didn't have too much contact, which will be the next step.

Video: NYI@TBL: Stralman shaken up on play in front of net

"I thought it was a good day today to get back out there with the team practicing," Stralman said. "It's not perfect, otherwise I would be playing. Hopefully just going to keep progressing, and I'll be ready when I'm ready."

Stralman had some success against the Penguins this season, with four goals in three games, but said that shouldn't mean anything going into this series.

"I don't think I ever scored a goal against the Penguins until this year," Stralman said. "So I don't know what that tells you. Stuff like that just happens, just a fluke."

He said it hasn't been difficult to be an observer during the Lightning's playoff run because they have been winning. Tampa Bay is 8-2 in the postseason.

"I think it just proves the quality of players we have on this team and how well we work together," Stralman said. "Like I said many times before, this team is still in the growing process. I mean, we haven't played together for that long of a time. We just have to keep improving as a team, as a group, as individuals and … we can do some really good things."

Lightning forward J.T. Brown (upper body) skated with Erik Condra and Vladislav Namestnikov during line rushes, a sign he could play his first game since Game 2 of the first round against the Detroit Red Wings.

"Right now, it's too early to tell," Brown said. "This was my first practice out there with the guys. Might take a little bit more before I can even come close to making a decision on that."

Forward Steven Stamkos also skated, but in a red no-contact jersey. The Lightning captain hasn't played since March 31 and had surgery to treat a blood clot near his collarbone on April 4.

Stamkos said there continues to be no timetable for his return and will continue to practice so he will be ready when he gets cleared and taken off blood thinners.

"There's no answer," Stamkos said. "I'm closer than I was five weeks ago, that's for sure. There's really no set timeline, there's no set doctor visit that I go [to] tomorrow and they say, 'You're ready to go' and I'm back. This isn't anything where it's a broken bone or something. It's more than hockey you're talking about."

Video: Lightning Cruise into Conference Finals

Stamkos said he will continue to prepare and feels he's close to being able to play. But he will not be able to travel while on blood thinners, and though he has been told he will eventually return, it might not happen this season.

"That's kind of the frustrating part," Stamkos said. "It's a process, and anytime you go through something like this with the extent of the procedure that happened, there's obviously caution moving forward. They assured me I'm going to be able to come back for sure, it's just whether it's this year or if I have to wait until the beginning of next season."

Stamkos can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he's considering all his injured players "indefinite" and is happy they can all be on the ice together.

"Don't read anything in the jerseys, don't read anything until you see them in the game," Cooper said. "And it's unfair to the players. It's no use in putting timelines on guys, because ultimately they are usually all wrong. When they are on the ice with us, it's good to have them out there just for camaraderie. You'd rather have everybody together, regardless of whether they can play or not."

Cooper also didn't want to read anything into Tampa Bay's success against Pittsburgh during the regular season. The Lightning won all three games and scored 16 goals.

Cooper said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan has put his stamp on the team and it's a much different group now.

"Just the whole philosophy and everything's changed," Cooper said. "Players have changed. I think we played them three times in a month so it was very quick, and it was very soon after Mike came behind the bench.

"We probably caught them at a pretty good time, to be honest. We definitely needed those points at the time to put us in a playoff spot, but they don't mean anything now."

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