Stamkos returns for Game 7

Justin K. Aller / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The captain is back.

Eight weeks to the day of his last NHL game, Steven Stamkos made his return to the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup for Thursday's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper was evasive when asked about Stamkos beforehand, but the forward took part in the warmup and began the game on the the third line between Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.

Stamkos had been out of the lineup since March 31 after having vascular surgery to treat a blood clot condition.

His surgeon, Dr. Karl Illig, told Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times that Stamkos was cleared to play "a while ago," and the issue was blood thinners.

Illig added that the risks are "very, very low," and the decision was left up to Stamkos, who received several opinions before opting to play.

Stamkos returns for Game 7
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