TAMPA – Steven Stamkos made a cameo appearance and took a few shots on the ice late Wednesday afternoon.
Of course, he was wearing sneakers and standing on a piece of wood, but it was enough to get fans of both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Canada’s Olympic team thinking that Stamkos may be able to recover ahead of schedule from the broken right tibia he suffered on Nov. 11.
A TSN report suggested Stamkos was targeting Feb. 6 for his return, and he told Tampa reporters that he is aiming to get some action in before the Olympic break.
“It’s impossible to tell, really,” Stamkos said. “I mentioned in my press conference (last week) that I’d love to come back and play in a couple games and be able to play in the Olympics. That’s my goal. You have to have a goal and you work towards your goal.”
Stamkos says he is encouraged by how he felt on the ice.
“I just wanted to get a feel for the puck. I miss it after awhile. I feel good considering what’s happened and the time frame it has been.”
Before Thursday’s game against the Senators, the Lightning were 4-5-1 with Stamkos out of the lineup.
The Lightning were 12-4-0 before the Stamkos injury.
CONACHER REMEMBERS ROOTS
Somewhat lost in the Robin Lehner-Ben Bishop battle Friday night was the return of Cory Conacher to his old home in Tampa, where he made his NHL debut last season.
“It was lot of fun playing here, especially with Marty St. Louis. He was my mentor. He taught me so much as a player. My first camp with Tampa Bay is something I will always remember. It was a lot of fun scoring against Washington in my first game.”
KARLSSON KEEPS EYE ON OLYMPICS
Erik Karlsson says the Olympics are in the back of his mind, but he’s not caught up in any early hype.
“It’s one of those things that all professional hockey players want to play in and it’s going to be an exciting time, but at the same time, it’s a little too far ahead to be focussing on it,” Karlsson said before Thursday’s game against Tampa.
“It’s a little carrot you have in front of you and you look forward to going and playing if you can. It definitely sparks you to try and play your best hockey.”
Karlsson acknowledges that he has had a word or two with the Swedish stars on the Detroit Red Wings. That includes, of course, former Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.
“He has played in four Olympics, I think,” said Karlsson. “He has a lot of stories.”
ANDERSON HURTS KNEE AGAIN
For the second time in seven days, Senators goaltender Craig Anderson took a shot off the inside of his left knee at Thursday’s morning skate. Anderson says it’s a direct result of losing much needed protection because of the league’s new goaltending equipment standards. He plans on speaking to Kay Whitmore, the NHL’s senior manager of hockey operations, to see if there is any way to fix the problem.
CONDRA GETS ATTENTION
After Erik Condra’s solid play on a line with Jason Spezza and Clarke MacArthur against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, Zack Smith couldn’t resist a little jab at his dressing room neighbour.
“I heard there was interest from the (American) Olympic team,” Smith said, with a laugh.
Spezza paid Condra a compliment, suggesting he plays a similar game to Chris Kelly, the former Senator and current Boston Bruins centre.
“He’s a really high hockey IQ guy,” said Spezza. “He has good puck skills, he thinks the game well. If you ask anybody on the team, they would feel comfortable playing with him.”
Tampa is typically a special place for Spezza and not just because of the dose of natural vitamin D. Before Thursday’s game against the Lightning, he had scored 19 goals and 23 assists in 31 career games against Tampa.