Someone joked with Steven Stamkos that they knew his right knee was ready when they saw a clip of him dancing at his June wedding.

"They didn't see me ice it after," said Stamkos, smiling.

Whether Stamkos, 27, can return to his elite form is the No. 1 burning question in the NHL, as The Hockey News splashed on a recent cover. Stamkos' ability to bounce back could be the biggest factor in the Lightning returning to the playoffs.

Stamkos doesn't know when he'll completely be back. No one does. He's encouraged with how his knee responded after four preseason games, feeling better than he expected after missing 10 months.

Stamkos returned from a broken leg (2013-14) and blood clot (2015-16) to play the best hockey of his life. He's confident he can do it again, starting with Friday's opener against Florida.

"It may take some time. It might not," Stamkos said. "The only way you're going to find out is getting in a regular season games and putting yourself through that test."

Watching Stamkos in training camp, it was like he never left. He was flying up the ice, blasting his one-timers. He wasn't shying away from contact. The timing isn't there yet. But teammates sense a hunger in the four-time All-Star, and are betting on Stamkos once again being one of the NHL's best players.