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Stamkos announces he's ready to return Thursday @NHLdotcom

This time, Steven Stamkos will meet his goal of returning to the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup.

Stamkos tweeted this morning: "Just left the doctors office. Got the green light. See you tomorrow Bolts fans. Excited to be back !!"

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman confirmed the news of the center's return.

"Steven saw Lightning medical director Dr. Ira Guttentag this morning and based on the latest X-ray, a clinical exam and his functionality on and off the ice we are pleased to announce he is cleared to play," Yzerman said. "We look forward to seeing him on the ice with his teammates tomorrow night."

The Lightning, who executed a major trade Wednesday with captain Martin St. Louis going to the New York Rangers for their captain Ryan Callahan plus two draft picks, host the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. Stamkos had targeted the March 6 game for his return after being unable to complete his first attempt to play prior to the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"I'm excited, a little anxious, a little nervous, everything all in one," Stamkos later said in an interview posted on the Lightning website. "It's been a long road. It's been tough, but I think time heading in [to see the doctor] I was the most confident going in there knowing how I felt on the ice, off the ice, what I needed to do in order to get cleared to play, the tests I needed to go through, and everything felt great."

Stamkos has 14 goals in 17 games this season. He last played Nov. 11, when he suffered a broken tibia colliding with the goal post in a game against the Boston Bruins.

"You never go into games expecting to have an injury as significant as that," Stamkos said. "It was an eye-opener a little bit, but I do realize it was kind of a freak thing and stuff like that is eventually going to happen. I've been fortunate not to have to really deal with anything before that. I'm glad it's kind of behind me now and I put in the hard work with our training staff and our whole organization and I'm ready to come back."

Stamkos targeted a return prior to the Olympics in the hopes of playing for Canada, but did not receive clearance from his doctors.

"I have a new perspective on my career as a professional athlete and how hard you have to work to maintain that," Stamkos said. "This was another test and hopefully I can be a guy who uses this as motivation to my advantage and realize how precious your career is."

The Lightning were leading the Atlantic Division when Stamkos was injured. They entered Wednesday in third place with 73 points and in position to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 20 games remaining.

Stamkos cautioned it could take a little time for him to get back to the player he was before he was injured.

"I'm not going to come in here and expect to be where I was before the injury. That's not being realistic," he said. "It's probably going to take a couple shifts just to get that confidence back, a little bump here and there and hopefully everything is good and then you go from there. I know it's probably going to take some time, but at the same time I am expecting myself to come back and play as well as I did, so we'll see."

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