The Tampa Bay Lightning got an unexpected surprise when captain Steve Stamkos was declared fit to play in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Stamkos, one of the NHL’s elite goal scorers, hasn’t played since March 31, having missed Tampa Bay’s final five regular-season games and all 16 playoff games with severe blood clots. Stamkos underwent surgery to have a rib removed to remedy the situation on April 4.
It’s unclear if Stamkos will be in top form, but his presence alone is a huge emotional lift for the Lightning, who look to win Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on the road for the second straight year. In his career against the Penguins, he's tallied 34 points in 31 games, while he's notched 15 goals and 20 assists in 48 playoff games.
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Stamkos had 36 goals and 28 assists in 77 games this season prior to his injury.
He has 312 goals in 569 games since joining the Lightning as the NHL’s No. 1 overall draft pick in 2008