The NHL will be without one of its brightest stars and most potent goal-scorers indefinitely after Steven Stamkos broke his right tibia in the second period of Tampa Bay’s 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins Monday.
Stamkos, who is tied for the league lead in points (23) and goals (14), was backchecking against Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton when he crashed into the goal post. It was an innocuous play but when the net didn’t come off its moorings, it worsened the impact and it was clear from the first time Stamkos tried to stand that the damage was significant.
“Terrible,” said Capitals Coach Adam Oates, who worked with Stamkos during his season as an assistant coach with the Lightning in 2009-10. “Hopefully it doesn’t affect him. He’s a great guy, ultimate professional.”
It’s a critical loss for Tampa Bay, which is quietly off to a strong start this season and sits in first place in the Atlantic Division at 12-5-0.
While it hasn’t been ruled out, it’s uncertain whether Stamkos would be able to suit up for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Even considering Canada’s depth up front that would be a significant blow to that roster as well. Last season, Stamkos shared how much representing his country meant to him.
Tampa Bay General Manager Steve Yzerman, who is also the general manager for Team Canada, released a statement on the star center’s injury.
“At this point Steven will be out indefinitely,” Yzerman said. “The medical staff in Boston, in consultation with our team physicians, has made the decision to surgically repair the injury. The procedure is expected to take place tomorrow morning. The biggest concern for me, and the rest of the Lightning, is that decisions are made in Steven’s best long-term interest, and we feel this is the appropriate course of action.”
Stamkos’s injury also removes one of the league’s most dynamic goal scorers. Dating back through the 2009-10 season, Stamkos had 199 goals in 311 games and in each of the past four seasons he’s finished first or second in the league in goals scored.
“Obviously you don’t want to see any player get hurt,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “That kind of player — he’s been scoring goals like no one else the last couple years. A guy like him you don’t want to see get hurt. Hopefully he’ll be fine and we’ll see him on the ice soon.”