Stamkos will not play for Lightning in Game 1 against Bruins

Steven Stamkos will not be in the lineup when the Tampa Bay Lightning plays the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Sunday (8 pm ET; NBC, SN, TVAS, NHL.TV).

“He’s not available right now,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Saturday. “Again, he’s rehearsing. If he’s available, I’ll let you know.”

Cooper did not elaborate on how long the striker might have been.

“There are no further updates,” he said. “I will address it when he becomes available, but it makes sense to ask about it afterwards.”

Stamkos, who underwent surgery to repair a core muscle injury on March 2 and missed the last five games before the NHL season on March 12 was halted due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, suffered an injury to lower body before training camp. He did some drilling with the top power-play unit during camp, but did not go through a full practice until the Lightning arrived on July 26 in Toronto, the East hub city.

“Every time you have an operation, there will be things that are definitely connected,” Stamkos said on July 27. “There was a stretch for 4-5 weeks when I was skating when I felt really good. Of course there was no contact and no playful situations at that time that made me feel good.

“Then I hit a little rut. Definitely all related …”

Stamkos missed Lightning’s three games during the round robin portion of the Stanley Cup qualifier and their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, which they won in five games. He finished second at the Lightning with 66 points (29 goals, 37 assists) in 57 games during the regular season, behind forwards Nikita Kucherov, who scored 85 points (33 goals, 52 assists) in 68 games.

Defenseman Victor Hedman said Stampkos, the captain of Tampa Bay, continues to leave a positive mark, even though he could not play.

“He’s the captain for a reason and he’s shown that,” Hedman said. “Even if he does not play, he brings a positive mindset and positive radiance into the wardrobe, and it hurts boys.

“We are blessed to have a captain.”