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Stamkos uncertain about Game 4 status after exiting playoff debut

Dave Sandford / National Hockey League / Getty

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos couldn't make it past the first period Wednesday in his return to the team's lineup during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Stamkos finished the game with just five shifts and 2:47 minutes of ice time after suffering an apparent setback in the opening frame.

"There's an issue that I've been working through," Stamkos said when asked if he tweaked something, according to team writer Bryan Burns. "We'll see what happens from here."

Stamkos added that it's too early to tell if he'll be available for Game 4 on Friday, according to Burns.

The 30-year-old hadn't played since Feb. 25. He underwent core muscle surgery in early March and sustained a lower-body injury during Phase 2 of the NHL's return-to-play protocol in July.

Stamkos scored a goal before leaving Wednesday's action. He initially didn't come out to start the second period but later joined his teammates on the bench for the remainder of the game.

"It was an amazing experience to share with my teammates," Stamkos said, according to The Athletic's Thomas Drance. "There's been a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes, so to get into a game and have an impact on a game when a month ago that might not have been possible ... I was just happy to contribute."

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