The continued unavailability of Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos continues to be one of the biggest background stories of the NHL re-start and it isn’t going away. Head coach Jon Cooper told TSN that Stamkos will not be available for the team’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers today, which decides the No. 1 seed and home ice in the Eastern Conference. However, he went one step further by stating that Stamkos is out “indefinitely”, which calls into question whether there is any timeline for Stamkos’ return. The scoring center has been skating and per Cooper is “working his tail off” but it might not be enough for him to be ready for the start of the first round. The Athletic’s Joe Smith details the struggles that some players have returning from core injuries, particularly core surgery, so Stamkos’ delayed recovery is not a total surprise even five months removed. However, Smith writes that the concern is not that Stamkos has far exceeded the six-to-eight week timeline from back in March, but that the player and team both seem to have no idea of when he might be ready to return. Especially after having months off to recover, the fact that Stamkos is not ready could mean that he might not make it back for this postseason period.
- The Bolts’ opponent tonight, the Philadelphia Flyers, will also be missing one of their top forwards for the crucial seeding game. With a chance to go from fourth to first in the conference seeding, the Flyers will have to do so without Jakub Voracek. Head coach Alain Vigneault told NBC Sports Philadelphia that Voracek simply “is not available” for Saturday’s match-up and did not share any further details. Without any pre-existing injury and the agreement between the NHL and NHLPA not to disclose any medical information during these playoffs, this is the most that might be out there about Voracek. The star forward played a standard amount of ice time in the Flyers’ last game and did not appear to suffer an injury, but for one reason or another will not be in the lineup. Fortunately for the Flyers, the team’s depth up front is impressive, allowing promising rookie Joel Farabee to replace Voracek on the first line while veteran James van Riemsdyk returns to the lineup in his stead.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets hoped to shut the door on their qualifying round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday, but a last-minute three-goal collapse led to an overtime loss and a Game Five date on Sunday. It is not a coincidence that young standout defenseman Zach Werenski was not on the ice for any of the Leafs’ four goals against last night, as he missed the final nine minutes of regulation and all of overtime. Werenski appeared to suffer the injury while being tripped in the offensive zone, but then was seen having his neck examined and massaged on the Blue Jacket bench. Neither head coach John Tortorella nor GM Jarmo Kekalainen have had any update on Werenski’s condition or his availability for Sunday. The Athletic’s Alison Lukan points out that Ryan Murray, who is a constant injury risk, missed Game Four and the combination of both defensemen being out for Game Five would be a major hit to Columbus’ strongest position.