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Steven Stamkos joins Lightning for morning skate

Tampa Bay captain practices with teammates for first time since injuring knee Nov. 15 @NHLdotcom

Center Steven Stamkos practiced with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday for the first time since he tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee on Nov. 15 in a game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Stamkos wore a regular jersey but did not take line rushes and left the morning skate 15 minutes after joining his teammates.

General manager Steve Yzerman is optimistic Stamkos will return this season. The Lightning captain had surgery on Nov. 17, and the Lightning said at the time the timetable for recovery was at least four months.

"Yes, there's a chance that he will play again this season," Yzerman said Monday. "As of last week he was skating on his own in Colorado. So he's progressing well. He feels good. It's just allowing the injury to heal and getting his conditioning back."

Stamkos was tied for third in the NHL with 20 points in 17 games when he was injured. He signed an eight-year, $68 million contract with the Lightning on June 29, two days before he was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.

The Lightning play the Carolina Hurricanes at Amalie Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; SUN, FS-SE, NHL.TV). They are five points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay reached the Eastern Conference Final last season after advancing to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015.

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