Steven Stamkos making progress in recovery, waiting to feel '100 percent'

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/tam/" data-ylk="slk:Tampa Bay Lightning">Tampa Bay Lightning</a> center <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/4471/" data-ylk="slk:Steven Stamkos">Steven Stamkos</a> (91) before an NHL hockey game against <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/col/" data-ylk="slk:Colorado Avalanche">Colorado Avalanche</a> Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) before an NHL hockey game against Colorado Avalanche Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Steven Stamkos finds himself again in the same situation he was in a year ago. He’s had to watch his Tampa Bay Lightning teammates play on without him while remaining uncertain when he’ll return to the lineup.

A blood clot issue last season. A torn meniscus this year. Meanwhile, the Lightning are pushing for a playoff spot without their captain, who’s been out since November knee surgery.

But on Friday there was some progress. Stamkos, who has been skating for a while now, joined his teammates for a full practice – with light contact, of course – but pumped the breaks on any ideas of an imminent return.

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“When I feel 100 percent. Obviously that’s not the case yet, and that’s in all honesty. I can’t pick a date because I may not feel 100 percent on that date,” Stamkos said. “I’ve gone through stuff like this before and you start setting dates, that’s when sometimes you set unrealistic goals. When I feel 100 percent, I’ll be back playing. Obviously, we’d like to be sooner rather than later, but that’s the way these injuries go.”

Doctors said Stamkos would be back in 4-6 months, but returning in four months was never a realistic option. There was no target date of return when the injury happened and he’ll know when he’s ready to come back when his body tells him.

Without Stamkos and dealing with other injuries, the Lightning have struggled and are outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. They have rebounded of late and a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games has put them within striking distance of a wild card spot. Even after trading away Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle, the prospect of getting Stamkos back as the team rides into the playoffs playing well would make for an interesting early-round series.

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Tampa’s play of late has been encouraging to Stamkos, who said this injury, compared to the blood clot issue last year and his broken leg in 2013, has been the toughest to deal with. He’s been able to get through the mental part of his recovery, but the physical grind of rehabbing has been difficult.

Still just 27 years old, Stamkos has many good years ahead of him and it’s only a matter of time before he’s back in full form.

“Hopefully that’s it. Hopefully the string of bad luck is over,” he said.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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