The Tampa Bay Lightning will compete in their second consecutive Eastern Conference Final tonight, but will do it without the services of two vitally important members.
Anton Stralman and captain Steve Stamkos, who have missed the entire playoffs thus far due to a broken leg and blood clots, respectively, won’t suit up for Game 1 against the Penguins tonight at Consol.
Of the two, Stralman is expected to return to the lineup the soonest. He’s been participating in full practices, taking reps on the penalty kill and was skating on a pairing with regular d-man partner Victor Hedman, suggesting he could be back soon.
A 22-minutes-per-night guy that’s among the Bolts’ best possession d-men, Stralman is a valuable right-handed shot, on a blueline that doesn’t have many. It’ll be interesting to see how head coach Jon Cooper eventually works him back in, as Stralman hasn’t played since March.
As for Stamkos, the issue around his return seems to be with the blood thinners he’s taking. More on that, from WFLA’s Paul Ryan:
Stamkos did participate in Friday’s practice, and participated in full (meaning sans red no-contact jersey). It’s the first time he’s done that since the blood-clotting diagnosis was revealed in early April.