Limited to a single goal in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup Final series, it remains to be seen whether the Tampa Bay Lightning could get some offensive reinforcements before they take the ice for Game 2 on Monday night.
Monday morning, the captain was once again out with his team for a morning skate.
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— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) September 21, 2020
“You don’t get this many chances to be where we are and he wants to be a part of it, which he has,” Cooper said Sunday. “He’s collectively helped the group on the mental side of things, but he wants to be part of it on the ice as well. We’re not sure when that’ll be. We’re hopeful he’ll come back at some point in this series, but there’s no way we can tag that. When he’s not on the ice, he’s been an influential leader off the ice.
“I guess there’s always a chance [he plays in Game 2], but as of now, I don’t think so. You’ll have to tune in and find out.”
Stamkos has yet to play in the 2020 post-season, suffering an injury before the club reconvened from the season pause to begin training. The centreman’s last appearance game came back in late February — his exit from that Feb. 25 tilt ending a 15-game, 22-point scoring streak.
Cooper noted Sunday that the club would prefer Stamkos be up to speed before making a potential return.
“If [he does return], you have to make sure the player’s conditioned enough,” Cooper said. “You need guys to be able to contribute. He wouldn’t want that, either. Nobody wants to go into a game and sit on the bench the whole time. You have to be ready to play minutes and contribute. But we have a full medical staff, and Steven will be the first to tell you if he can go or not. If that time comes, he’ll be put in to play, not just sit on the bench.”
While Stamkos has skated with the team during optional practices and morning skates as of late, his work with the other scratches Monday suggested Game 2 still may be too soon for a return.
Watch Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and SN NOW.