Cooper has ‘no doubt’ Stamkos will play again this season

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Jon Cooper is adamant his star player will return to the ice this season.

That’s what the Lightning head coach said on Thursday when asked about when — or, if — leading scorer Steve Stamkos would be back in the lineup following surgery to repair a broken right tibia.

“In my heart, I know he’s coming back,” Cooper said, as per the St. Petersburg Times. “I have no doubt.”

Stamkos, who had a titanium rod inserted into his leg, has been given a timetable of 3-6 months, with the Times pointing out three months is “the most optimistic of the speculated timetables.” Complications from the rod insertion (hehe) or a rough patch of rehabilitation could delay his return.

Cooper said all signs are pointing in the right direction. The surgery went well — “nobody is saying the rod slipped” — and Stamkos, 23, is a disciple of the Gary Roberts training and lifestyle program. So all bodes well for a return.

But wait, a return for February? According to Cooper, that’s the bigger topic for discussion.

“I don’t think the question is going to be, ‘Is he coming back to play this year for the Tampa Bay Lightning?'” Cooper explained. “The question is, ‘Is he going to be back to play for the Canadian Olympic team?’

“I’m the optimistic coach, but that’s how it might turn out.”