Monday, January 22, 2018
Sports

Stamkos better, not ready to play

It raised some eyebrows Thursday when a release circulated saying that Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was scheduled to play in a junior Canadian Hockey League alumni game May 27 in Windsor, Ontario. After all, Stamkos hasn't played since mid-November surgery to repair a torn lateral mensicus in his right knee.

But Stamkos said he is not playing in the game and organizers put him on the roster without confirming his participation with him. But that doesn't mean Stamkos' rehabilitation has hit any snags.

"Things are going well," Stamkos wrote to the Tampa Bay Times. "Feeling much better than where I was at the end of the season."

Stamkos skated with the Lightning for the final month of the regular season, hoping to play before the season's end. Stamkos said on exit-interview day that he "wasn't as close as everyone thought" to returning but was confident he'd be back to "100 percent" for next season.

General manager Steve Yzerman said a few weeks ago that Stamkos' rehabilitation was on schedule and he'd be "ready to go" for training game next season.

Playoff games are so tight … : The NHL could be headed for a record-breaking number of one-goal games this postseason. There had been 46 through Wednesday night, including 25 settled in overtime. The record is 51 in 2007.

"It's so tight," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said after a one-goal win over the Ducks earlier this week. "The scores at this time of the year generally are fairly low. And you wonder if 1-0 is going to do it for the night."

Stellar goaltending might also be helping. The collective save percentage in these playoffs was .921 through Wednesday, ahead of the .917 mark last season.

Winning the game's top prize inevitably means winning close games, and it's perhaps not surprising that the team with the most one-goal wins has taken the past four Cups, including Pittsburgh with eight in 2016. Ottawa was this year's leader entering Wednesday with 11.

Ottawa plays an extremely defensive brand of hockey designed by coach Guy Boucher, who arrived in May.

"There's so many good players nowadays that can score very easily or make plays with not much time and space," Ottawa's Mike Hoffman said. "We try … (to) key in on their good guys and not give them odd-man rushes.

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