Stamkos practices with Lightning, but return to lineup not imminent

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Thanks to a rash of recent injuries and a couple of recent trades the Tampa Bay Lightning forward depth has been decimated over the past couple weeks as they try to play their way back into a playoff spot. With Ondrej Palat missing practice on Friday and his status for Saturday’s game against Washington being in doubt, things are not really getting any better.

But there was reason for at least a little bit of optimism on Friday when injured forward Steven Stamkos took part in his first full practice with the team since undergoing knee surgery back in November.

Stamkos said that he still isn’t ready to return to the lineup and won’t do so until he is 100 percent, but getting back on the ice with the team was a pretty big step in his recovery.

Injuries, as well as a blood clot issue last season, have robbed Stamkos of several of his prime years in the NHL with the latest one happening in November against the Detroit Red Wings. The initial timetable for his return was four-to-six months but Stamkos said on Friday, via Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, that four months was never a realistic option and that it was always going to be somewhere in the middle.

After getting blown out by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, the Lightning find themselves one point out of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with 12 games to play in the regular season. Even with the loss on Thursday they are still 12-3-3 in their past 18 games.

Before the injury Stamkos was off to an incredible start to the season with the Lightning scoring nine goals and adding 11 assists in 17 games. If they can get him back before the end of the season and sneak into the playoffs they would probably not be an easy out in the first round.

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