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Stamkos has core muscle surgery, return to Lightning still 6-8 weeks away

Forward hasn't played since Feb. 25; defensemen McDonagh, Rutta skate, out week to week

by Corey Long / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

TAMPA -- Steven Stamkos had surgery to repair a core muscle injury Monday, and the expected recovery time for the Tampa Bay Lightning forward remains 6-8 weeks.

"[Surgery] went well, now it's just recovery mode," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Tuesday. "Nothing has changed in his timeline other than the fact that now [the surgery is] over. As I said, it was successful. All is good. Now it's just a stopwatch and when we can get him back."

The Lightning announced Saturday that Stamkos, who has 66 points (29 goals, 37 assists) in 57 games, would need the surgery. 

Stamkos, who missed three games from Feb. 10-13 with a lower-body injury, reinjured himself against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 25. He left that game after the second period. He will be out for the rest of the regular season and could miss the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

The Lightning enter their game against the Boston Bruins at Amalie Arena on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS) seven points behind Boston for first place in the Atlantic Division.  

"It's just tough the timing for him," Cooper said. "It's so close to the end of the season. But if [surgery] wasn't required, if it wasn't the best thing for him, we wouldn't be doing it. You are always looking out for the player first."

Defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta each out with a lower-body injury, participated in an optional morning skate Tuesday. Each is considered week to week but is expected to return before the end of the regular season. 

Rutta will miss his 13th straight game since sustaining an injury Feb. 4, and McDonagh will miss his 12th straight since Feb. 6.

McDonagh has 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) in 48 games. Rutta has seven points (one goal, six assists) in 33 games.

Cooper said that the skate was the first step in their eventual return.

"It's part of the progression," he said. "They've [been] out for a while. Next step is get them on the ice, then the next step will be practice and then conditioning … it's still early, but it's good to have them on the ice."

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