Tampa Bay Lightning head coach John Cooper delivered some good news prior to the team’s first playoff game. Captain Steven Stamkos, who missed the last three games of the regular season with a lower-body injury, is good to go. The Lightning open up their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at home to the New Jersey Devils. Cooper made the announcement in a media scrum following the team’s morning skate.
Steven Stamkos will play for the Lightning in Game 1 vs. the Devils. He missed the last three games of the regular season.
— Chris Ryan (@ChrisRyan_NJ) April 12, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning Get Steven Stamkos Back for Game One
Stamkos had been skating with the team over the last few days, so his return is not a huge surprise. The 28-year-old playmaker is a vital cog in the Lightning machine. In the regular season, he scored 27 goals and 59 assists for 86 points in 78 games. He also added a hard-hitting 72 minutes in penalties. His possession numbers were 53.2 percent Corsi and a relative Corsi of +2.1.
Over his decade-long NHL career, Stamkos has put up 348 goals and 320 assists for 668 career points in 664 career games. He was originally drafted by the Lightning in the first round, first overall of the 2008 NHL draft.
Obviously, having their top centre back for the playoffs is huge for the Lightning. Most analysts have made Tampa the favourite in the series with the Devils, but anything can happen in the playoffs. Stamkos will be expected to pair with Nikita Kucherov. They provide the Lightning with one of the most dangerous duos in the NHL, and are going to be a handful for the Devils in this series.
Main Photo Credit: NEWARK, NJ – FEBRUARY 26: Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016, in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning shutout the Devils 4-0. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)