Over the past few years, Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos has dealt with more than his fair share of injuries. In 2014, a broken leg kept him from representing Canada at the Olympics and shortened his NHL season to 37 games. In 2016, the Lightning reached the Eastern Conference final, which Stamkos missed all but one game of. And just last season, he was limited to 17 games after sustaining a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee.
As he has dealt with those setbacks, Nikita Kucherov has risen as an offensive star in Tampa Bay, and there’s a sense Ondrej Palat has more in him. With Jonathan Drouin shipped off to Montreal this summer, the Lightning need Stamkos back and it looks like he’s ready to go. Last week he tweeted a video of himself getting some edge work in on the ice, and on Tuesday he spoke about how excited he is for the start of training camp next week.
“It’s just exciting,” Stamkos told Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times. “I haven’t looked this forward to a training camp in a long time. I feel like I’ve put in the work and I’m seeing the results.”
A two-time 50-goal scorer, the 27-year-old instantly makes the Lightning a Stanley Cup favourite once more.
His loss last season was the main contributing factor to Tampa Bay missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs completely, despite the fact they came in as a popular pick to win it all. Prior to last season, the Lightning made it to back-to-back conference finals, and lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
Stamkos is excited and ready to fire on all cylinders, but admits that when you’ve had the number and kind of injuries he has in recent years, it’s hard to say when you’re fully recovered.
“When you’ve been through the tough stretches I’ve been through over the last four or five years, it’s tough to know what 100 per cent is, I don’t think you’ll know,” he said. “But like I said, it’s the best it’s felt since the surgery. Way better than where I ended the season off… It’s just been getting better and better every day and I can see it continually doing so.”