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Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson out for Lightning

Tampa Bay centers won't play Saturday vs. Canadiens, might return Sunday vs. Stars

NHL.com @NHL

Tampa Bay Lightning centers Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson will not play against the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CITY, TVA Sports, SUN), but might return Sunday, when Tampa Bay is home against the Dallas Stars.

The Lightning enter the game against the Canadiens four points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, who hold the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Lightning and Maple Leafs each have six games remaining. Toronto plays at the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.

Stamkos, who had arthroscopic surgery for a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee on Nov. 17 and has missed more than four months, and Johnson, who has missed 10 games with a knee injury, each participated in the morning skate Saturday. Neither took line rushes and each stayed on the ice after the skate was over.

Neither has a definite return date.

"You never know," Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times. "It could be next game. It [might] not be the rest of the season. I'm not going to go out there until I know I'm confident in what I can do and have no hesitation."

The Lightning are expected to have forward Nikita Kucherov back against Montreal. Coach Jon Cooper said Kucherov, who sat out a 5-3 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday with an illness, "hopefully is a go tonight. He should be good."

The Lightning are 8-3-0 in their past 11 games.

"For me, in the end, I want the best players in and when those guys are healthy and ready to go they are going back in," Cooper said. "I do see your point -- don't rock the boat when things are going well -- but we lost three games in a row right before that. I like everything that's going on right now, but you're at your best when you have your best players."

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