The calvary might not be in a hurry to rescue the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Although injured center Steven Stamkos took part in a full practice Friday, he still has no timetable for his return. He might not make it back before the end of the regular season, which has 12 games to go. The Lightning continues to exist just beyond the final wild-card berth,
“When it’s 100 percent, I’ll be back,” Stamkos said Friday to the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s a question I can’t answer. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in this rehab process, where it feels like it’s never going to get better. Then you have a week where it goes through the roof in regards to how you’re feeling.
“I’ll be playing when it feels ready. And I can’t say it feels ready right now. But it was a start.”
Stamkos said the Lightning’s recent stretch — going 12-3-3 to get back into the playoff conversation — has given him a lift in his rehab.
“This has been the toughest by far,” Stamkos said. “I think mentally, you know what to expect. Physically, this one was the toughest with the type of injury it was. It was a grind. There were a lot of days, especially when it happened. Hopefully, that’s it, the string of bad luck is over.”
Stamkos was off to a strong start when he was injured.
“There’s a lot of what could have been,’ Stamkos said. “But that’s life. Things like that happen. You get tested in a lot of different ways. It’s tough to watch the guys struggle. I see the season unfold the way it has. It’s encouraging the way things have gone lately. It has helped me in the process as well.”
Stamkos said he’ll be back when he is ready.
“When there’s no restrictions, where you feel like you did before surgery,” Stamkos said. “Obviously, even when I came back from the broken leg, there was the curve that goes with coming back, the inflammation, the little bit of pain after. There shouldn’t be any uncomfortable moments on the ice. Obviously, some of that is mental too. I’ve been through this before, I have a good understanding of what my body needs to feel like in order to be back on the ice.”
Tampa Bay plays Washington Saturday.