Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos returned to the ice Tuesday for the first time since surgery to remove a blood clot from his right collarbone on April 4.
Stamkos, wearing a red no-contact jersey, worked with Brian Boyle and Mike Blunden on the fourth line. Stamkos, who also missed nearly four months of the 2013-14 season with a broken right tibia, said he's still on blood thinners and will have to come off them before he can play.
"It was fantastic," Stamkos said. "Obviously any time you can get back from injury and just be around the guys it's uplifting for sure. I've been through that before with the leg and the first time you get back out there with the whole team it's always fun."
Stamkos was expected to be out 1-3 months and May 4 will be one month from his surgery. He said he thinks his injury is frustrating because physically he feels ready to play but he has to continue to wait and see how he reacts to the medication.
"Obviously with this type of injury and the blood thinners, you have to take your time," Stamkos said. "There is no timeline. It still hasn't changed in that regard."
Video: Steven Stamkos discusses his recovery
Stamkos is the second Lightning player this season to have surgery to remove a blood clot. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy had the same injury before the season started and needed six weeks to recover. Stamkos said that knowing the symptoms Vasilevskiy had prior to surgery helped him identify the problem.
"After the Montreal game I had no problems in the game, felt great, went and did a workout," Stamkos said. "After the workout I had some symptoms where my arm [felt] a little heavy, a little swelling and that's when I remembered from [Vasilevskiy's] injury that those were symptoms. I talked to the doctors and we made sure we got on it right away."
Stamkos, 26, led the Lightning with 36 goals. His 64 points were second behind Nikita Kucherov (66) during the regular season. In 48 Stanley Cup Playoff games, Stamkos has 15 goals and 20 assists. He said that as much as he wants to come back, especially during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he has to be patient with his recovery and do what he can to stay in shape.
"Health is the most important thing," Stamkos said. "Any contact, any bruising, anything like that can lead to complications so we have to be careful. It's just the waiting game right now. The million dollar question is how long you have to be on those [blood thinners] before they feel that you're ready and safe, and I don't know."
Video: Cooper on the Islanders and Stamkos
Stamkos said he wants to be there for his teammates but he doesn't want to be a distraction during the playoffs. Lightning coach Jon Cooper said it's always good to have Stamkos on the ice.
"Anytime you can have [Stamkos] around for sure you want help around," Cooper said. "It's going in steps because before he was just around the locker room and he wasn't coming on the ice. Now you see him step on the ice and zip passes around and shoot pucks and stuff. It just makes everybody feel better. Every step he takes that gets him closer to being back with the team is motivating."
Cooper said he has no idea about Stamkos' timetable and added that the Lightning is fully expecting to not to have him available to play in the second round.
Defenseman Anton Stralman (broken leg) and forward J.T. Brown (upper body) were not on the ice.
The Lightning play the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Second Round. Game 1 is at Amalie Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).