Lightning center Steven Stamkos participated in his first full practice on Friday as he continues his recovery from a torn meniscus, reports Bryan Burns on the Lightning’s team website. While it’s certainly a positive sign that he’s getting closer to returning to the lineup, there remains no timetable for him to suit up and head coach Jon Cooper was quick to caution that a return isn’t yet imminent. The original estimate was that he’d be back in four-to-six months.
Stamkos was injured back in November 15th so he’s just at the four month mark now and clearly isn’t ready to return just yet. If he is able to get the green light within the next few weeks, he’d be a big boost to a Tampa Bay lineup that is making a late push at the final Wild Card spot in the East. On the season, the captain has nine goals and 11 assists in 17 games.
Other injury notes from around the league:
- The Panthers will be without top blueliner Aaron Ekblad for at least another week, coach/GM Tom Rowe told Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel (Twitter link). The 21 year old suffered a concussion on Saturday against Tampa Bay. Roberto Luongo’s return is still not close as Rowe noted that he will be out longer than Ekblad will. The veteran netminder re-aggravated a lower body issue back on March 2nd against the Flyers and the team has won just once in his absence to fall out of the playoff picture.
- Rangers right winger Jesper Fast will return to the lineup tonight against the Panthers after missing the last seven games with a shoulder injury, notes Justin Tasch of the New York Daily News. He’s expected to play on the third line and will force rookie winger Pavel Buchnevich to the press box for the time being as the team plans to keep Tanner Glass in the lineup. Through 59 games this season, Fast has five goals and 15 assists while logging just under 14 minutes a night in ice time.
- Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning missed his third straight game last night and remains day-to-day with an upper body injury (believed to be a shoulder), GM Ron Hextall told CSN Philly’s Jordan Hall. Recent call-up Jordan Weal returned to the lineup but admitted he’s still not fully recovered from his lower body issue. He took the place of forward Nick Cousins, who missed the game with an upper body problem. Like Manning, he’s classified as day-to-day. Still with Philly, goaltender Steve Mason left last night’s game due to cramping, adds Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post.