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Steven Stamkos is back on the ice,

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TAMPA John Tavares Jersey , Fla. (AP) eager to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning into the NHL playoffs.The five-time All-Star missed the last three games of the regular season with a lower-body injury. He returned to practice this week and hopes to be ready Thursday for the start of a first-round series against the New Jersey Devils.”It was obviously tough,” said Stamkos, who watched the Lightning go 2-0-1 down the stretch to hold off the Boston Bruins for the Atlantic Division title and No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.”You want to be in those games. But the more important games are now, and I just want to make sure I feel as good as possible heading into the playoffs,” the team’s second-leading scorer added. ”Hopefully it keeps progressing and I can feel good come Thursday.”Stamkos, a two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner, rebounded from missing most of last season with a knee injury to bolster the NHL’s most prolific offense with 27 goals and a career-high 59 assists for 86 points in 78 games.The 28-year-old center anticipates a tough matchup against the young Devils, who won all three regular-season meetings between the teams.”It doesn’t really matter where you finish (in the standings) any more. All these other teams are their own different animals come playoff time,” Stamkos said. ”It’s a fresh start once you get into the playoffs. Regular season is regular season. We all know that.”Stamkos’ health figures as a key to the series.He missed 65 games after undergoing surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee last season, when the Lightning narrowly missed the playoffs. Two years ago Authentic Jordan Eberle Jersey , a blood clot discovered near his collarbone sidelined the center from late in the regular season until Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, when Tampa Bay lost to eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh.The Lightning didn’t practice Tuesday, but coach Jon Cooper said the team remained hopeful of having Stamkos back for Game 1 against the Devils.Stamkos is optimistic, too, though with his history of injuries in recent seasons he has no illusions about being completely healthy when he returns.”Listen, my body will never be 100 percent, regardless, going through the stuff I’ve been through,” the No. 1 overall pick from the 2008 draft said. ”So there’s no point asking about percentages.”— Two teams hurtling in opposite directions will meet up Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Kings host the Winnipeg Jets at Staples Center.The Jets (22-9-2) have won a season-high five straight games, taking the past three in overtime, and they have won nine of 10 overall. Winnipeg knocked off the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-4 in overtime Sunday to move atop the Central Division.The Kings (11-20-3) have lost four in a row and six of seven. They own the fewest points in the NHL (25) and have yet to earn a point in three consecutive games this season.Article continues below ...Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin said frustration continues to build in the dressing room Womens Josh Bailey Jersey , but it’s important the players release their tension in positive ways.“We have to stick together as a team, that’s first and foremost, and everyone grab a shovel and start digging,” he told reporters after a 4-3 overtime road loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. “If we start pointing fingers, the team crumbles. I believe in this team. Obviously, we have a lot of guys hurt, but we can’t be making excuses, we have to come together as a team and get out of this together.”Los Angeles is the lowest-scoring team in the NHL at 2.18 goals a game, a good distance from the Arizona Coyotes, the second-lowest scoring team (2.50).Winnipeg, meanwhile Mathew Barzal Jersey , has combined for 27 goals in its five-game winning streak to move to fourth in the NHL at 3.64 goals a game.Patrik Laine had a four-game point streak end in the win over Tampa Bay on Sunday, but Mark Scheifele and Dustin Byfuglien each extended his point streaks to five games, and Mathieu Perreault scored a goal for the fourth consecutive game.“Right now, I’m just riding the wave,” Perreault told the Winnipeg Sun before Sunday’s win. “It’s been that way for my entire career, really. I’ve been a streaky player, not that my game gets any different, but sometimes the bounces go your way and, right now, that’s what has happened. Obviously, it gives you more confidence when pucks are going in. … You feel like the net’s a little bigger.”Scheifele’s point streak consists of five goals and nine assists http://www.islandersfanproshop.com/authe...ddy-jersey , which moved him to fifth in the NHL with 46 points. He scored a goal against the Kings for the first time in his career in a 2-1 win in Winnipeg on Oct. 9.Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick is expected to start against the Jets. Quick has struggled in his career against Winnipeg, owning a 4-5-2 record, 3.02 goals-against average and .888 save percentage. The Jets are the only NHL team averaging more than three goals a game against Quick.Quick, who was injured and did not play in the loss to the Jets earlier this season, said he views each matchup with a clean slate.“It doesn’t matter if we won the last 10 or lost the last 10,” he said. “It’s a one-day-at-a-time job.”
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