Steven Stamkos doesn't know when he'll be back on the ice.
With only 10 regular-season games remaining for Tampa Bay, the Lightning center and captain knows his window of opportunity to return is beginning to close. Despite his ambition, he stands firm that he won't push himself to play until he's fully healthy.
"When I'm 100 percent, I'll be back," Stamkos said, via NHL.com. "Obviously you hope that's sooner rather than later, but I have no control of the healing that goes on and the process. The timing and the conditioning and all that stuff; there's so many factors that come into play when you've been out as long as I have."
Stamkossuffereda torn lateral meniscus in his right knee on Nov. 15 andunderwent surgery with the expectation he would likely miss most of what remained of the regular season. He was given an initial timetable of four to six months for recovery, though he passed the four-month mark earlier this month.
"Until I feel where I have no restrictions on the ice, I won't be able to put myself in a position to be the player I know I can be to help my team to the best of my abilities," Stamkossaid. "As of this moment, as of coming off the ice right now, I still don't feel that way.
"I don't foresee a thing where I'm going to wake up tomorrow and it's going to feel great all of a sudden. It's a process. It's frustrating at times. It's exciting at times when you see how much progress is made in a short period of time, but it's a long rehab progression."
In Stamkos' absence,the Lightning are looking more and more unlikely to clinch a postseason berth. The team sitsfive points behind the Bruinsfor the second wild card in the Eastern Conference after dropping its last three games. Boston, also on a three-game losing streak, is slated to host Tampa Bay on Thursday.