Many people thought that Steven Stamkos would eventually be named captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It happened sooner than he liked.
On Thursday night, in the wake of Martin St. Louis's deadline day trade to the New York Rangers, Stamkos was announced as the 10th player in Lightning history to wear the team's C, joining former linemates St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier on the franchise's list of captains. (St. Louis had succeeded Lecavalier, who departed for Philadelphia this past offseason.)
During the pregame skate, Stamkos wore his alternate captain jersey, and then went down the tunnel to the dressing room. He was the last player to be introduced, reappearing with the C on his chest before a crowd of 19,204 at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The captain makes his debut. #Stammertime https://t.co/kgpt2k9NNN
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) March 7, 2014
Tampa Bay's 3-1 loss to Buffalo was also the first game action for Stamkos since he broke his right shin in Boston on Nov. 11. The injury kept him out of 45 games and the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. His return comes in the middle of a playoff push by the Bolts, who fared reasonably well during his absence. They find themselves in the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, trailing Toronto by just one point for third place in the Atlantic Division.
Cleared to play by doctors on Wednesday, Tampa Bay's sniper logged 21 minutes of ice time against the Sabres, including 4:11 on the power play, but was held pointless while accumulating five shots, tied for a team-high with Mark Barberio. He did have a strong showing in the face-off circle, going 17-for-24, the best of any player with five or more attempts in the dot.
Prior to his injury on Veteran's Day, Stamkos had recorded 14 goals and nine assists in just 17 games. CAZENEUVE: Lightning among teams to watch in the stretch