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Steven Stamkos could play for Lightning this season

Center skates with Tampa Bay teammates for first time since knee surgery

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos could return this season, general manager Steve Yzerman said Monday after the center took part in an optional morning skate at Amalie Arena.

Stamkos hasn't played since tearing the lateral meniscus in his right knee in a game against the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 15. The injury required arthroscopic surgery, and the Lightning said would be out at least four months.

During his time on the ice Stamkos participated in some passing, shooting and situational drills in the non-contact practice before the Lightning's game against the Ottawa Senators at Amalie Arena (7:30 p.m., ET; SUN, RDS2, TSN5, NHL.TV). Yzerman said there has been no change in the timetable for Stamkos' return.

Yzerman said this was the next step in Stamkos' recovery process, and expressed optimism that the Lightning captain will return this season.

Video: TBL@DET: Stamkos slams in a rebound on the doorstep

"Yes there's a chance that he will play again this season," Yzerman said. "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."

Coach Jon Cooper said that everything regarding Stamkos' rehabilitation has been going as planned.

"I don't know the timetable yet or when he's going to be able to jump into practices with our team," Cooper said. "We're not there yet, but we're really happy with his progress."

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

Last season Stamkos missed eight weeks after having blood clot surgery on April 2. He returned to play in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Lightning lost 2-1.

Entering the game Monday, the Lightning, who traded No. 1 goalie Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, are seven points out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

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