Steven Stamkos absorbed the most contact he's taken during his recovery from a broken right tibia at Tampa Bay Lightning practice on Friday. The Canadian Olympic team member said after the hour-long skate that he's not quite ready to proclaim his return to NHL game action, but he's getting closer. "I feel good. It was a good practice [Friday]," Stamkos said after the Lightning skated at Bell Centre. "I got to participate in all the drills, do a little light contact. It's still not where I want it to feel but it's definitely getting better and it's progressing. I don't feel I'm where I need to be in order to play in a game yet but it's getting there." The contact element of Friday's practice was encouraging to Stamkos because he feels the mental element of being able to face game situations without fear of re-injuring his leg will be one of the more difficult hurdles he'll need to overcome before he returns to play. "I was in the corners a little more and getting bumped around. By no means was it full contact," Stamkos said. "It is tough mentally as well, going in there knowing you're a little hesitant in certain areas. I've said it before, that's what you don't want. So I'm trying to overcome that and as you progress and take more contact in practice hopefully that goes away." A decision on Stamkos' status with the Canadian Olympic team will need to be made before it departs for Sochi on Feb. 9. The Lightning play the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, a game Stamkos will not play in, but there will be three games remaining prior to the Olympic break: at the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, home against the Toronto Maple Leafs next Thursday and home against the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 8. Stamkos remains hopeful he will be able to play in at least one of those games but he will not rush into doing so just because of the looming Olympic deadline. "You just have to listen to your body," he said. "We're talking a lot because of the Olympics and my goal is to be ready for those games, but your body doesn't lie. When you're doing certain movements and you feel pain, that's an indicator that maybe it's not quite ready. It has gotten better, there's less and less pain every time I get on the ice, but there is still a little discomfort.
Stamkos takes contact in practice, not game-ready yet
NHL.com | Feb 1