BUFFALO – On the surface, it might look like a season-killing injury for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Two-time 50-goal scorer Steven Stamkos could reportedly miss four months after tearing his lateral meniscus in an innocent-looking play Tuesday in Detroit.
The Lightning captain plans to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery in Colorado, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, who also reported a four-month recovery is a best-case scenario.
Stamkos, 26, and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin are the only superstars who have consistently busted through the gridlock of the Dead Puck Era and scored 40 or 50 goals regularly.
That kind of production can’t be replaced.
“You know what we have to do, you’ve got to take your head out of the sand, dig your heels in and march on,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said this morning inside KeyBank Center. “Unfortunately, this has happened to us before and the guys have found a way.”
It happened late last season, when Stamkos suddenly underwent surgery to treat a blood clot in his arm. The Lightning responded by reaching the Eastern Conference final without Stamkos, who returned for a Game 7 loss to Pittsburgh.
“We just got to do it again,” defenseman Victor Hedman said after the Lightning prepared for tonight’s game against the Sabres. “No one’s going to feel sorry for us come game time.”
How was Tampa Bay able to overcome Stamkos’ absence?
“We’ve got a great group of guys, and you lose your captain, you lose a leader, another guy steps up,” Cooper said. “I think that’s first and foremost, they lift each other up in there. We’ve got some pretty dynamic players, too. We’re deep and in a sense we’ve been here before.”
Lightning center Brian Boyle said: “We have depth and we have guys that can play different roles and move around. I think we’ve been together long enough we can mix and match some of the lines and guys can find that chemistry fairly quickly. It’s unfortunate but … guys are going to miss games.”
Stamkos has missed a lot of games. He also broke his femur in a gruesome incident Nov. 11, 2013, an injury that cost him his coveted Olympic spot on Team Canada’s entry at the Sochi Games.
With Stamkos limited to 37 games, the Lightning still earned 101 points in 2013-14.