TAMPA (FOX 13) - When Steven Stamkos removed himself from the game on Sunday in the 2nd period against the Nashville Predators, Jon Cooper didn't have a reaction. Speaking with the media today after the Lightning's practice at Amalie Arena, Cooper said he didn't see Stamkos leave, but now that he knows what's ailing Stamkos, he doesn't seem overly concerned.
"The player knows his body," Cooper said. "Doctors know what to do. I'm not going to speculate on anything. Stammer's planning on playing in the playoffs and I'm pretty sure he's planning on playing at some point in one of these last three games. It's medical personnel, they'll make the decision with Stammer how he feels. But people shouldn't be concerned."
Cooper says he didn't see Stamkos skate off, but it didn't go unnoticed by his teammates.
"I think the main thing is getting him back in the lineup when he's healthy," Lightning forward Tyler Johnson said. "There's no reason to rush anything right now. I don't know anything more than you guys, but Stammer's a big part of our team. He's a guy that's obviously our leader, he's our captain, he's a guy we want on the ice. As fast as we can get him back, that's the best thing possible."
Even with number 91 on the ice, the Lightning have been erratic this past month. They've lost four of their last five games and Stamkos has not scored in a month -- 12 straight games without a goal.
"It's one of those things where it's better to start scoring when the playoffs start,” smiled Alex Killorn. "I think he's saving them. With him, he's a veteran player and he's been through these things. For normal people, [12 games] is that wild, but for him it's probably a little bit different. He'll find a way to get out of that pretty quickly."
"You know, we've kind of been a little bit streaky here,” said Cooper. “You know you score seven, you score none. You score seven, you score one. We just have to find a way to get inside. We have to find a way to just do things a little bit better. If we can do that as a collective group, we will be alright."
The loss of Stamkos comes at the worst time with the Bolts facing Boston on Tuesday in a game that will have a direct impact on the playoffs
"Well, it's going to probably have a big determination of which team comes first, let's be honest,” acknowledged Cooper. "We win the game, we're right back in it. They win it, they've probably got it. In the big scope of things, it's game 80. But it's a big game 80."