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Stamkos close to being cleared to play @NHLdotcom

Steven Stamkos practiced with the Tampa Bay Lightning again Thursday and said he is "definitely very close" to be cleared to play.

"It felt great out there," Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times. "The best it's felt."

Stamkos attempted to return from a broken right tibia sustained Nov. 11 in time to play for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics but could not. He said the extra time off has been a great benefit.

"It did feel good, but it feels even better now," Stamkos said. "Maybe I wasn't as far along as I thought, knowing how much better it has felt now that I have kept working on it and taking a couple of days off. It's just going to continually get better, and that's positive knowing it's doing that."

Tampa Bay plays Thursday at the Nashville Predators. Stamkos will have an X-ray Monday, the newspaper said.

"If you asked him if he could play right now he'd most definitely say he could," coach Jon Cooper said. "There were a lot of times where he said he was OK but he was still feeling the effects of something, but I don't see that anymore."

Goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis, who made 55 saves for Latvia in a 2-1 Olympic quarterfinal loss to Canada, is likely to join the Lightning rather than return to Syracuse of the American Hockey League, Cooper said. Lightning backup Anders Lindback (lower body) has practiced the past two days but his return is undetermined.

Injured defenseman Matt Carle (foot) and forwards Tyler Johnson (foot) and Valtteri Filppula (ankle) are not expected to practice before Monday.

Boston Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid practiced for the first time since sustaining a leg injury Jan. 19.

"It worked out well that everyone had been off the ice for a while before today, and hopefully the next little while will play out the way I want it to, and I'll be back soon," said McQuaid, who is uncertain to return to play Wednesday.

Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green (concussion) has been cleared for contact after missing five games leading into the Olympic hiatus.

"I feel good. The break couldn't come at a better time," Green told the Washington Post. "It's just a matter of skating here; I didn't skate much before."

Capitals forward Mikhail Grabovski (ankle) missed eight games before the break, and defenseman John Erskine was scratched twice. Coach Adam Oates said he expects them to be able to play next week.

"I would say that all the guys need the rest," Oates said. "But for guys who are a little banged up, for sure, get a chance to heal, maybe do some weight work and get stronger."

New York Rangers forward Derek Dorsett, who missed 17 games because of a leg fracture sustained Jan. 3, skated with teammates for the first time since his injury.

Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk (hand) has been cleared for contact, but forward Brandon Prust (upper body) did not practice after sustaining an injury Wednesday.

New Jersey Devils forward Ryane Clowe did not practice due to soreness. Clowe missed 32 games this season with a concussion before returning Dec. 27.

"Pretty natural for the first day back," coach Peter DeBoer told "Nothing I'm worried about, just not going to take any chances with things. You always deal with these things coming back off a break like we had."

Calgary Flames forward Brian McGrattan was injured during practice Thursday.

"I didn't see," coach Bob Hartley said. "I guess that from what the players … told me, he kind of caught a rut and he just went and basically fell face first into the boards. He was in pretty big pain. Obviously we'll probably have a report for you guys [Friday] morning."

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