Tampa Bay Lightning NHL hockey player Steven Stamkos smiles during a news conference in Tampa, Fla., Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/The Tampa Tribune, Chris Urso
VANCOUVER - Steven Stamkos continued to skate towards his Olympic dream Wednesday, hoping that he can recover from a broken leg in time for the Sochi Games next month.
Stamkos skated in Vancouver after his Tampa Bay Lightning squad held a morning practice in preparation for a game against the Canucks.
After undergoing surgery, he is hoping to fast-track his return in time to represent Canada at the Games for the first time in his career. He aims to be ready to play with the Lightning before he goes to Russia.
"It's at the stage now where you make so much progress the first four or five weeks and now it's about maintaining that, getting stronger, working out in the gym, going on the ice and trying to make sure you feel better every day, and I am so it's definitely positive," he told reporters.
Stamkos was leading the NHL in scoring when he was sidelined after crashing into the goalpost on Nov. 11 against Boston. Olympic team lineup deadlines were loosened following the mishap.
The 23-year-old Markham, Ont., native wants to make sure that he does not do too much too soon.
"That's one of the harder things, but your body is pretty good at letting you know what you can and can not do," he said.
"We've come to a stage now where everything has gone extremely well. You don't want to push it and over-do it and have a setback, That's the worst thing you can have right now.
"You just want it to feel good every time you get out of bed in the morning."
Stamkos feels fortunate to have youth on his side, along with an excellent medical staff around him every day. He has also been helped by former NHLer Gary Roberts, now a personal trainer, with whom he worked over the Christmas holidays.
"I'm a pretty driven guy," said Stamkos. "I set goals for myself and I do anything possible to attain them. If I can't attain them, at least I can look myself in the mirror and say I did everything I did in my power to try to attain that."
Accordingly, he has not lost sight of his Olympic quest during his ordeal.
"That's something that is a goal of mine," he said of playing in the Olympics. "I want to come back and play hockey for the Tampa Bay Lightning before I go to the Olympics, if that's the case, and it's nice to have that goal, something to motivate and push you on some of the tougher days."
Stamkos hopes to be on the short side of a recovery period estimated at three to six months. But he is also in a race against time as the Olympics approach.
"It's coming quick," he said. "It's already been seven weeks since my surgery, it's crazy how fast things go by. Usually, when you think things like this happen you think it is going to be a grind each and every day, and it is going to wear on you."
But Stamkos said he has surprised himself with his progress, while being around his teammates has been a "huge help."