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Stamkos out for Lightning's final game, expected back for playoffs

Center sidelined with lower-body injury; Tampa Bay leads Atlantic Division, Eastern Conference @NHLdotcom

Steven Stamkos will not play in the Tampa Bay Lightning's last regular-season game because of a lower-body injury, but he is expected to be ready to practice before the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The 28-year-old center, who sat out a 7-5 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday, had 86 points (27 goals, 59 assists) in 78 games this season after missing the final 65 games last season because of a knee injury that required surgery.

Coach Jon Cooper said Friday he expects Stamkos to be prepared when the Lightning begin practice next week in preparation for the playoffs.

"Our target is to have him fully ready, actually not for the game but for practices before," Cooper said before playing the Sabres. "That's our target."

Tampa Bay, first in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference, visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, SUN, NHL.TV). The Lightning lead the Boston Bruins by two points having played one more game.

The Bruins end their season with home games against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, CITY, NESN, NHL.TV) and the Florida Panthers on Sunday.

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