The Tampa Bay Lightning have extra motivation to win the Stanley Cup on Monday.
They want to do it for their captain, Steven Stamkos, who has been ruled out for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Final and won’t play in Game 6 against the Dallas Stars at Rogers Place in Edmonton (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
The Lightning can win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2004 with a win. Game 7 of the best-of-7 series would be Wednesday.
“We certainly know that he’s a huge part of this team,” Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said Monday. “He’s done a lot for us to get here and we feel like a person who’s been with this organization for that long, if we can get one for him tonight, it would obviously mean a lot to him as well.”
Stamkos will miss his third straight game and 24th of the 25 the Lightning have played this postseason because of a lower-body injury he sustained prior to the start of training camp in July.
The forward was limited to five shifts totaling 2:47 in the first period of Game 3 against Dallas but scored a goal on his only shot. He didn’t play the final 46:18 of the game, a 5-2 win. It was his only playing time since Feb. 25.
“He’s been leading by example off the ice in how hard he’s been fighting to get back into the lineup,” Shattenkirk said. “I think the way he was rewarded the other night was pretty gratifying for him and for everyone. He’s been such a positive influence on us and making sure that he’s not trying to take anything away from what’s going on in the locker room, but at the same time he has the right words to say at the right time. He knows how to pick individuals up and grab them and say the right things.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Sunday that Stamkos would not play again in the Cup Final.
“Hopefully the next time we see him on the ice is during a trophy presentation,” Cooper said.
Cooper praised Stamkos’ persistence to do what he could to get back in the lineup. He would not address his injury situation further. As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information.
“I’m sure this will all be addressed after the series is over,” Cooper said. “To be honest, I don’t think he was playing at all in these playoffs. I don’t think any of us did. He gave us 2:47 of brilliant hockey that’s a phenomenal story, scored a huge goal for us in a win. Hopefully we can keep that momentum moving forward. He’s for sure missed on the ice, but the rest of the series is done for him.”
Stamkos had surgery to repair a core muscle injury March 2 and missed Tampa Bay’s final seven games before the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. He was second on the Lightning with 66 points (29 goals, 37 assists) in 57 games, behind forward Nikita Kucherov (85 points; 33 goals, 52 assists).
Stamkos participated in drills with the top power-play unit during training camp but did not take part in a full practice until after the Lightning arrived in Toronto, the hub city for the Eastern Conference through the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, on July 26. He was a regular participant in optional practices and morning skates last week before playing Game 3 on Wednesday.
Stamkos’ return in Game 3 of the Final was similar to the one he made during the 2016 playoffs. He missed eight weeks that season recovering from surgery to clear a blood clot near his right collarbone before returning against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, playing 11:55 in a 2-1 loss.
“It was just an amazing experience to share with my teammates,” Stamkos said after Game 3. “There’s been a lot of hard work and different things going on behind the scenes. Just to be able to get out in a game and have an impact in a game which a month ago may have never been possible. It was amazing to be part of a huge win for us. I was just really happy to obviously contribute in a game that I didn’t play too much.”