A day after sitting out practice because of soreness in his leg, Steven Stamkos returned to the ice for about 15 or 20 minutes in Toronto -- without a "do not touch" jersey. Stamkos hit the ice wearing a regular practice jersey for the first time since breaking his leg in November.
"I felt a lot better today," he said. "It's a process. Yesterday I took the day off, did an off-ice workout, felt a lot better today. Obviously we were smart with it, and it paid off."
So how was Stamkos able to skate 24 hours after he couldn't on Monday?
"Just a little pain in certain areas [on Monday]," Stamkos said. "Basically really that's what it is, the bone is really strong right now, the X-rays look really good, it's more small tissue stuff, stuff that over time you're still going to have to deal with. Yesterday we just aired on the side of caution, and it felt a lot better today."
The target date for Stamkos to return to game action remains a week from Thursday [Feb 6.] against Toronto. The Lightning have just two home games before the Olympic break and Stamkos says, while it's ideal to play with the Lightning before heading to Sochi, it's not a requirement.
"The objective is to play a game [in the NHL]. That would be something I would really love to do," Stamkos said. "But if that's not the case, there's going to be another discussion about whether or not I'm still going to be on that team if I can't play a game. We've had brief discussions about that, it's more or less been 'We'll cross that bridge when we need to.'"
Stamkos plans to talk with Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman before making any decision.
"If we have to sit down a couple of days before we have to leave for the Olympics, we can be honest with each other," Stamkos continued. "If I say that I'm at the level I think I need to be at to compete at the Olympics, I think he's going to have the trust in me that I can go over there and play at that level. But at the end of the day, I have to be honest with him. If I say I'm not ready, obviously I'm not going to go."
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