Just a little more than a month since undergoing leg surgery, Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos was skating and stick-handling at the Prudential Center in New Jersey on Saturday.
It was the first time he's laced up the skates since breaking his right leg in a game against the Boston Bruins on Nov. 11. Stamkos joined his teammates on the ice at their morning skate before a game against the Devils. He wasn't in hockey gear.
"I'm feeling good (and) everything's on track," Stamkos said following practice. "Just starting to progress and make sure there are no setbacks, but I'm feeling really good."
Stamkos suffered a fractured tibia while backchecking on a play in the Tampa Bay zone in the second period when he got tangled with Boston defenceman Dougie Hamilton. Stamkos fell to the ice and slid feet-first before his lower right leg slammed into the right post, forcing the net off its moorings.
"It's just nice to get back out there," he said. "Mentally, it's just a good thing to get out there on the ice and even be out there and pass the puck with a couple of guys. That's positive for me and that's only going to help."
Asked if there was any pain in his foot during the skate, Stamkos said it felt good.
"I thought I might have a little issue with that bottom screw in there but I didn't. There's still a bit of swelling in the leg and ankle so you feel that a little bit, but I don't think I'm going to have a problem with the screw."
While a return to the ice is positive news, Stamkos said that a return date isn't any clearer.
"There is healing taking place in the bone but by no means is it close to being fully healed. Only time will tell but we definitely ramped up the rehab; whether it was in the water tread mill, in the gym and now on the ice.
"This ice stuff is really not for my leg; it's more for keeping my hands loose and shooting some pucks. We'll see, but everything's gone great so far and I couldn't be more pleased with the treatment I've been getting."
Stamkos was tied for the NHL lead in goals (14) and points (23) before suffering the injury.