Nov 7, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) against the Edmonton Oilers during the first period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Stamkos may not require NHL return to play in Sochi Olympics

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos hopes to play an NHL game or two to knock off the rust before the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but it’s not a prerequisite for him to do so to still compete for Team Canada in Sochi.

“The objective is to play a game [in the NHL], that would be something I would really love to do,” Stamkos said to a throng of media at the Air Canada Centre. “But if that’s not the case, there’s going to be another discussion about whether or not I’m still going to be on that team if I can’t play a game. We’ve had brief discussions about that, it’s more or less been ‘We’ll cross that bridge when [if] we need to.’”

Stamkos has been out since Nov. 11 when he broke his leg against the Boston Bruins and his recovery has been nothing short of remarkable. The 23-year-old former No. 1 pick has been cleared for light contact in practice suggesting a return could  be in store prior to the Feb. 9 Olympic break.

The last Lightning game before the break is against the Detroit Red Wings coached by Mike Babcock who is also the head coach of Team Canada, so a brief audition vs. the Wings could be enough to alleviate any concerns over his health.

Further, Tampa general manager Steve Yzerman and the man who put together Team Canada will have to weigh the risk vs. the reward of pressing his franchise player to an early return for a two-week stink with the Olympic club.

“We’re not going to rule anything out,” Yzerman said. … “He’s still hopeful to play at some point next week but we don’t know yet if that’s realistic or not. We’re going to keep all the options open and make the appropriate decisions when the time comes.”

Tags: 2014 Sochi Olympics Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning

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