Cooper 'extremely optimistic' Stamkos will return when eligible
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Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper isn't worried about his captain remaining on long-term injured reserve for longer than the minimum length of time required.

Cooper said Saturday that the club hopes Steven Stamkos can skate in 7-to-10 days, and the club is "extremely optimistic" the star forward will be ready to play once his mandatory stay on LTIR is complete, according to team reporter Bryan Burns.

Later on Saturday, the Lightning said Stamkos' injury is unrelated to the core muscle ailment he sustained at the end of the 2019-20 regular season.

On Thursday, Tampa Bay placed him on LTIR. The move was retroactive to April 8, when he was hurt late in a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Players placed on LTIR must miss at least 10 games or 24 days.

Stamkos remains tied for the team lead in goals this season with 17 despite playing five fewer contests than fellow club scoring leader Brayden Point and the four other skaters in the top six on the list.

The Lightning entered Saturday's action sitting second in the Central Division with the NHL's fourth-best record.

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Cooper 'extremely optimistic' Stamkos will return when eligible
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