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Filppula plans to return for Lightning; Stamkos close

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- The Tampa Bay Lightning are on the verge of getting a pair key pieces back into their lineup.

Steven Stamkos, who's missed 44 games since a horrific injury against the Boston Bruins on Nov. 11 that saw him break his right tibia, continues to progress and skated again with the Lightning on Tuesday morning ahead of Tampa Bay's matchup with the St. Louis Blues (8 p.m., NBCSN, TSN2).

Stamkos will not play Tuesday but hasn't ruled out a home game Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres. First, the team will look at another X-ray in order to determine just how good the bone is.

"I feel great. I feel the last two weeks, I've felt ready to play," Stamkos said. "We'll see what happens [Wednesday].

"It feels way better than it did a month ago. It's only going to continue to get better. We've been skating, we've been pushing it off the ice, we've been doing a lot of single-leg testing. It feels as good as it's going to get for the rest of this year. It feels pretty much the same as my other leg. It's kind of not based on how I feel, it's how the X-ray looks. I'm hoping third time's a charm. Hopefully that holds true [Wednesday]."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper was noncommittal to a lineup for Tuesday night, but the team could see the return of Valtteri Filppula, who has missed the previous four games with an ankle injury. However, center Tyler Johnson (foot) was not on the ice Tuesday morning along with defenseman Radko Gudas, who will miss the game against the Blues after suffering a leg injury Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche.

Filppula said he will play Tuesday night. He centered Alex Killorn and Teddy Purcell at the morning skate Tuesday.

"Honestly, that'll be a game-time decision," Cooper said regarding a lineup. "I've got nothing on the lineup. That's the honest truth. [Stamkos] is not playing, and Gudas isn't playing. There's two.

"We'll wait until [Gudas] gets back and evaluate him there but definitely out [Tuesday]. Hopefully it's not going to be, I don't know, what do we consider long? A week, 10 days? I'd probably throw that window in there. But knowing [Gudas], it could be 10 minutes, you never know. He's a tough kid."

Cooper was asked if the Lightning will go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen against the Blues.

"That's going to depend on bodies," Cooper said.

Tuesday also marks the first home game for the Blues since acquiring goalie Ryan Miller and forward Steve Ott from Buffalo on Friday.

Each made his respective debut with the Blues on Sunday and helped them snap a modest two-game losing streak in a 4-2 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes.

"It's quite an experience to change teams," Miller said. "You want to get off to a good start and start to work with the boys and kind of show them what you can do and gain their trust. For Steve and I to get in, I know we were a little anxious, a little nervous to get things going.

"… When you play somewhere long enough, you have a couple years of good will built up. You switch teams and you start from scratch. It's definitely something where you want to show the (home) fans what you can do. You want them to feel comfortable with you in net. With the goaltender, the fans need to feel a little comfortable. That's just what I'm going for."

Here are the projected lineups Tuesday between the Lightning and Blues:


Ondrej Palat - Tom Pyatt - Martin St. Louis

Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Teddy Purcell

Ryan Malone - Nate Thompson - B.J. Crombeen

J.T. Brown - Vladislav Namestnikov - Nikita Kucherov

Victor Hedman - Sami Salo

Matt Carle - Michael Kostka

Eric Brewer - Mark Barberio

Ben Bishop

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Keith Aulie

Injured: Steven Stamkos (tibia), Tyler Johnson (foot), Radko Gudas (leg)


Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - Vladimir Tarasenko

Brenden Morrow - Derek Roy - Steve Ott

Magnus Paajarvi - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole - Roman Polak

Ryan Miller

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo, Chris Porter

Injured: Vladimir Sobotka (knee), Jordan Leopold (ankle)

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