“If you’ve been following along with my press conferences, I really don’t reveal anything about my lineups,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said on Monday. “You’ll have to tune in tonight to find out. It’s probably frustrating for a lot of people, especially in the day of social media, but we’ll have our lineup today and 20 guys will be in the lineup that give us the best chance to win.”
The Dallas Stars defeated Tampa Bay 4-1 on Saturday to take a 1-0 series lead, with Game 2 on Monday.
Stamkos has not played in a game since Feb. 25, and he has been sidelined for the entire playoffs so far with a lower body injury — though he has remained with the team in the bubble.
Monday was the first day reporters were allowed to observe a morning skate. Stamkos was a regular participant, but did stay on the ice for extra drills, typically an indication a player is scratched. In total, Stamkos was on the ice for about an hour.
Cooper said at this point the green light for Stamkos will come from several people, including Stamkos himself.
Stamkos underwent surgery to repair a core muscle injury on March 2, and had an initial recovery timeline of six to eight weeks. Stamkos joined his team for voluntary workouts over the summer, but apparently re-aggravated the injury and has had at least one setback since then.
Ahead of the Stanley Cup Final, Tampa Bay general manager Julien BriseBois said while Stamkos wouldn’t suit up in Game 1, he was “hopeful” to return during the series.
“It would mean a lot to us — he’s our leader,” forward Pat Maroon said Monday. “He’s the guy that drives the bus in the locker room. It’s good to see him skating, seeing a smile on his face.”
One area in which the Lightning really miss Stamkos: the power play. The Lightning have gone 0-for-14 on the power play over the past four games — including 0-for-3 in Game 1. Stamkos has 155 career power play goals over 12 seasons with Tampa.
Stamkos hasn’t played in six months, so it’s hard to gauge his level of impact. Although, as teammate Blake Coleman noted on Sunday, “his 80% is better than most guys’ 100%.”