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Lightning's Stamkos cleared for light contact

by Staff

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos was wearing a yellow practice jersey Saturday morning, indicating he's been cleared for light contact.

There isn't a set timetable for his return, however, and Lightning coach Jon Cooper made sure to clarify Stamkos is not fully cleared for practicing yet.

"He's getting better every day, but there are lots of things that have to go on still," Cooper said. "He hasn't been cleared and he's still a ways away from being cleared. He hasn't done any battling. It's just the process that is slowly going on here. But, in saying that, when you take the minimum-maximum of what the injury was, he's closer to coming in at the minimum time frame than the maximum time frame, so that's good for all of us."

Stamkos, who suffered a broken leg Nov. 11 against the Boston Bruins, had previously joined the Lightning for their morning skate Thursday and said his leg was "the best it's felt" since he had surgery a day after the injury.

Stamkos, named to Canada's roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, is hoping to return to the Lightning before the two-week Olympic break begins on Feb. 8.

In addition to Stamkos getting himself physically ready, Cooper said the mental part of the comeback will be important.

"It's not going to be the 'think-about-it' things, it's going to be the things that happen when you're not thinking about it," Cooper said. "You can't go into a corner being afraid to get hurt, or hit or anything like that, so these are the hurdles he'll have to overcome.

"We haven't had much practice time so we haven't had situations where we put him through much battling. Monday we'll have an energetic skate and we'll see how he can do during that one."

The Lightning, who host the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, are tied in points with the Boston Bruins atop the Atlantic Division, but the Bruins own the tiebreaker with two games in hand.

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