Losing captain Steven Stamkos with a blood clot was a "punch to the gut" for the Tampa Bay Lightning, coach Jon Cooper told "NHL Live" on Wednesday.
"With Stamkos, we didn't watch anything happen," Cooper said of actually seeing the injury occur. "That was a discomfort in his arm after the Montreal game (on March 31), not really thinking anything, and all of a sudden you hear the word 'blood clots' and there's just panic going through you.
"So that one really snuck up. That was a blind punch to the gut, that one."
Stamkos is out 1-3 months after having surgery Monday to repair the clot located near his right collarbone, a type of vascular thoracic outlet syndrome called effort thrombosis. He missed his third game Tuesday, a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
"In those situations, it's devastating, but hockey kind of goes to the side at that point because you're thinking about 'How's his life going to be affected?'" Cooper said.
Doctors said Stamkos will be evaluated in two weeks. Cooper said Stamkos will recover fully but will miss at least the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which begin April 13.
Video: Lighting coach Jon Cooper visits NHL Live
"We're just glad we caught it. Now, in a perfect world, do you wish this never happened? Yes," Cooper said. "But obviously the timing's terrible for him too, because he's been a big part of why we are in the playoffs obviously. And for him to, well for sure miss the first round, I know it's killing him."
Tampa Bay played Tuesday without injured defensemen Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, and forward Ryan Callahan.
"We've really run into the injury bug here of late," Cooper said. "We expect Victor back; whether he's going to play these last two games or not … this is probably a little bit more of body maintenance for him because we need him healthy for the playoffs. But to have a guy like him out, and Callahan, it's tough, and so it really tests your depth as an organization, and unfortunately we're missing some big guns but hopefully we can slowly get them back for the playoffs."
Stamkos, who had 36 goals and 64 points this season, can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Cooper said the situation never came into the locker room.
"It's been just business as usual," Cooper said. "That's what makes [Stamkos] a great pro. Everyone just knows these are situations that it's also a business. It's a game, but it's business. But it hasn't let anybody affect our team, that's for sure."