Lightning wanted Stamkos included in celebration
Dave Sandford / National Hockey League / Getty

The Tampa Bay Lightning said it was a no-brainer to involve Steven Stamkos in the trophy presentation and team photo after advancing to the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.

"Even though Stammer's not playing, he's still the leader of this team and he's such a good influence in the room during practices and morning skates, so he's still a big reason (why) we're here where we are," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman told the assembled media, including Sportsnet, postgame.

Stamkos hasn't been able to suit up due to injury since the NHL resumed play, but he joined his teammates on the ice following their series-clinching victory over the New York Islanders in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final.

"Stammer's a huge part of our team," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "He's our captain, he's been our captain for almost every day that I've coached, and he's a big reason why we're here. This season, he hasn't played in the postseason, but he was a big reason (why) we made the playoffs ... and finished pretty high in the conference."

The Tampa Bay bench boss said he appreciated his players' gesture and implied it was an example of how united they are as a team.

"What I loved most about it was the three (alternate) captains were going up there, but they wanted to make sure Stammer was a part of it, and he deserves to be a part of it," Cooper said. "That's probably why (we're in) the position we're in right now, because everybody cares so much for each other and we wanted to make sure he was in that picture."

Stamkos has starred for the Lightning for his entire 12-year career. He split the captaincy with Martin St. Louis in 2013-14 and donned the "C" full time the following campaign, helping Tampa Bay reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2015.

Lightning wanted Stamkos included in celebration
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