The NHL reopened for business Wednesday afternoon when coaches and players for all 30 teams hit the ice to begin preparations for the resumption of the season Feb. 25.
There was a lot of attention on the Tampa Bay Lightning and the health of center Steven Stamkos, who resumed skating during their afternoon session at the RDV Sportsplex in Orlando, Fla.
Stamkos was sidelined a little more than three months after crashing into the goal post and breaking his right tibia at TD Garden against the Boston Bruins on Nov. 11. Stamkos, who was forced to withdraw from the 2014 Sochi Olympics because of the injury, has 14 goals and 23 points in 17 games.
Stamkos' timetable to play agan is open-ended, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The goal, according to Lightning coach Jon Cooper, is to have Stamkos ready to face the Nashville Predators when the Lightning resume regular-season action Feb. 27.
Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (wrist, upper body) was on the ice, but center Valtteri Filppula (ankle) was not. Bishop and Filppula were injured in a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 6.
Bishop told the media he would be ready to play by Feb. 27. According to the newspaper, Bishop acknowledged his wrist would have to be monitored and may have to be repaired during the summer.
The Tennessean reported Wednesday that Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne was on the ice with his teammates for practice for the first time since undergoing surgery for a hip infection in October. In nine games before leaving the lineup, Rinne had a 2.31 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
Another injured Finn, Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu, also was on the ice. The Wild captain skated with his team Wednesday after being sidelined with a broken ankle sustained Jan. 4. The injury kept him from playing for Finland at the Olympics.
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun skated with teammates Wednesday. The veteran has been on injured reserve all season dealing with a blood clot in his pelvis. The Penguins revealed Vokoun has been off blood thinners for a week and his return to the ice is a major step in his recovery. Defenseman Kris Letang, who suffered a stroke prior to the Olympic break, watched practice.
"It's good to be back on the ice and being with the guys," Vokoun said. "My agenda is practice and see how I feel and how it moves. I'm just coming to practice and trying to get a little bit better feel for things every day and go from there."
Predators general manager David Poile was hit in the face by a puck Feb. 6 while watching the pregame skate at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. He needed surgery to repair a broken orbital bone and fractures to his nose. He returned home to Nashville on Feb. 9 but was unable to join the U.S. men's Olympic team in Sochi; Poile is the GM of that team. The Predators said Poile is expected to be back at work sometime this week.
The Columbus Blue Jackets received some good news Wednesday at the OhioHealth Ice Haus when it was learned right wing Marian Gaborik was given medical clearance to resume practicing. Gaborik, who has missed the past 21 games after sustaining a broken collarbone on Dec. 21, told the Blue Jackets website he feels close to 100 percent.
"I'm going to work into practice and work into battles, and hopefully jump into games soon," Gaborik said. "Considering I couldn't play, I had a chance to work on some things and rehab and strengthen stuff ... it helped."
San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture, Raffi Torres, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Nieto returned to practice. Couture has been out since Jan. 5 because of a hand injury, and Torres has not played all season with a knee injury.
"We could be putting a group of players on the ice together for the first time this season," coach Todd McLellan said, according to The Associated Press. "That can be a real good thing. It will also have to be a patient thing for our group. They are going to experience that level that they haven't been at yet. But we do have about six weeks to put it all together before we get to the real time of the year."
The Vancouver Canucks returned to practice missing one more player than before the break began.
Forward Alexandre Burrows sprained his wrist in a fight with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel in the final game. Despite finishing that game, Burrows wasn't on the ice for practice Wednesday.
Neither was captain Henrik Sedin, who missed the past two games and eight of 10 with a rib injury; defensemen Chris Tanev, out six games with a thumb injury; nor defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who has missed five with a lower-body injury.
All four injured players skated on their own Wednesday and will do the same again Thursday. They are listed as day-to-day but expected back before the Canucks resume play Feb. 26 against the St. Louis Blues.
"There’s a lot of things we have to wait and see -- how do they react after skating?" coach John Tortorella said. "If they progress, I think we can get them into our practice. If not, we may have to pull them back."
The Anaheim Ducks are likely to have forward Nick Bonino back in the lineup after he missed four games with an upper-body injury, according to the Orange County Register.
Coach Bruce Boudreau told the newspaper goaltender Viktor Fasth is fully ready to go after he has been sidelined since late November with a lower-body injury.
The Detroit Red Wings could have three players back in their lineup: forward Johan Franzen (concussion), forward Stephen Weiss (groin) and defenseman Jakub Kindl (lower body). Each player participated in practice Wednesday and is targeting a return in the Red Wings' first game back, against the Montreal Canadiens, MLive.com reported.
The Red Wings will be without captain Henrik Zetterberg, who sustained a herniated disk playing for Sweden at the Olympics.
Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green, out since Jan. 30 with a concussion, is likely to be able to play a week from Thursday, the Washington Post reported.
Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane told TSN his hand infection has healed and he is ready to play.
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Dave Bolland, out since Nov. 2 with an ankle injury, practiced Wednesday but it is not known if he will play immediately after the break.
Not every team was forced to contend with injuries Wednesday, but there were some noticeable absences with many players participating in the Olympic tournament. With goaltenders Carey Price (Canada) and Peter Budaj (Slovakia) in Sochi, the Montreal Canadiens were forced to find a new goaltending tandem. To do that they enlisted the help of former NHL goalies Jocelyn Thibault and Martin Houle, who filled the nets during practice Wednesday.
The NHL season resumes Feb. 25 when the Carolina Hurricanes visit the Buffalo Sabres at 7 p.m. ET (NHLN-US) in a game that had to be rescheduled from last month due to a snowstorm.
Eight teams resume the following night, but most don't return to action until Feb. 27, meaning teams can hold as many as seven practices before resuming play.
It will be interesting to see if Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller is still a member of the team when the season resumes; the roster freeze ends Feb. 24 at 12:01 a.m. Rosters have been frozen during the Olympic break but general managers were allowed to discuss moves and Miller is one of a number of players who could be on the move prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, which is set for 3 p.m. ET on March 5.
Another prominent player who could switch uniforms is New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who has spent his entire career with the organization and whose contract expires after the season. Brodeur told reporters Monday he probably won't request a trade and will leave it up to general manager Lou Lamoriello to ask him to waive his no-trade clause.
Brodeur, who turns 42 May 6, last appeared in a game on Jan. 26 against the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium, during which he was pulled after the second period of a 7-3 loss. Cory Schneider started the Devils' final six games before the Olympic break.
"I have no indication one way or the other that anything is going to happen," Brodeur said. "I haven't discussed it with anybody really to see what my plans are going to be for the next 23 games. I haven’t talked to the coach about playing time either. I’m just going to get back here, get back in playing shape for the next seven days, and we’ll see if I'm going to be able to get the net."