Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos said Thursday his injured right leg is much better than it was at the end of last season.
Stamkos broke his right tibia on Nov. 11 in a game against the Boston Bruins. He returned March 6 to play the final 20 games of the regular season plus four in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Center - TBL
GOALS: 25 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 40
SOG: 124 | +/-: 9
"It feels much stronger," Stamkos told the Lightning website
. "Mentally, too, you're in a better state. It's amazing what time and being able to work on it, being able to strengthen it kind of at your own pace and at your own time and how your body reacts. It's amazing week after week how much better it feels and how much closer it's getting to where it was before. I'm excited about that."
The website said Stamkos had a screw removed from his leg three weeks ago, and one remains.
"Sometimes you still have to look back, and it hasn't even been a year yet [since the injury]," Stamkos said. "Usually they say stuff like that takes a full year to where it feels as close, but it never feels exactly the same. But it's way better off than where it was at the end of the year."
Stamkos was named Lightning captain for his first game back from injury, which followed the trade of Martin St. Louis to the New York Rangers. Stamkos finished last season with 25 goals in 37 games, a full-season pace of 55.
"It's nice to kind of have a test run (as captain) last year," Stamkos said. "That's the thing, you don't want to change much. I've been a leader on this team for a while. I've been able to learn from past guys that I played with at various times in my career. We have a great leadership group in here. It's pretty easy coming in and sharing that load with all those guys. You try not to change much and think about it too much."
The Lightning begin training camp Sept. 18.