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Stamkos hoping to be ready for Game 1 of playoffs

Scott Audette / National Hockey League / Getty

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said Friday that his goal is to be ready for the postseason opener.

"Everything seems to be trending in that direction," he said, according to Lightning radio analyst and reporter Caley Chelios.

Stamkos has been out of the lineup since April 8 due to a lower-body injury. The team was initially optimistic he'd return when he was eligible to come off long-term injured reserve last week.

The 31-year-old has suffered numerous injuries in the latter half of his career. He missed all but 2:47 of the team's playoff run last year due to a lower-body injury, though he did score a goal in that brief time.

Stamkos said that the surgeries he's had, including procedures on his knee, leg, and core, are "all connected" in some way.

"You're never going to feel the same after all that stuff," he said, according to The Athletic's Joe Smith. "No one wants to be out there more than myself."

As usual, Stamkos was productive when healthy this season, racking up 17 goals and 34 points in 38 games.

Nikita Kucherov, who's been out for the entire season with a hip injury, resumed skating nearly two months ago and could also return to the lineup when the playoffs get underway.

With the Carolina Hurricanes inching closer to clinching the Central Division title, it's looking more and more like the Lightning will be matched up with their in-state rivals the Florida Panthers in Round 1 of the postseason.

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