TAMPA, Fla — Despite suffering one of the most-gruesome injuries of the NHL season, Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos is headed to Sochi.
Stamkos headlines seven players with Lightning ties who will represent their countries from Feb. 7-23 at the Winter Olympics.
The Bolts’ center has been out since Nov. 11 with a broken right tibia sustained in a loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. But he has made significant progress in his rehab after surgery, enough to earn a coveted roster spot on Team Canada, as announced Tuesday.
"That’s something I’ve thought (about)," Stamkos said in November of playing in the Olympics, a little more than a month after his injury. "It’s something I was really looking forward to having a chance to take part in."
Other Tampa Bay players bound for the Olympics include center Valtteri Filppula (Finland), wingers Ondrej Palat (Czech Republic) and Richard Panik (Slovakia), plus defensemen Radko Gudas (Czech Republic) and Sami Salo (Finland). Goalie Kristers Gudlevskis (Latvia), a member of the Syracuse Crunch, the Bolts’ American Hockey League affiliate, also will participate.
Here’s a closer look at the Olympic selections from Tampa Bay’s organization …
— Stamkos: The 23-year-old native of Markham, Canada, had 23 points with 14 goals in 17 games before fracturing his right tibia. He’s eyeing a late-season return to the NHL, and his addition to Team Canada is a positive development for that goal. This will be his first Olympics appearance.
— Filppula: The 29-year-old native of Vantaa, Finland, owns the Bolts’ second-highest point total with 33, behind Marty St. Louis’ 38. His 16 goals are second on the team behind St. Louis’ 17, and his 17 assists are tied for second with Matthew Carle, four behind St. Louis’ team-high mark. He was a member of Finland’s 2010 Olympics squad that won the bronze medal in Vancouver.
— Palat: The 22-year-old native of Frydek-Mistek, Czech Republic, has 19 points with 12 assists. He had four points with two assists with the Bolts in 14 games last season, his first with Tampa Bay. This will be his first Olympics appearance.
— Panik: The 22-year-old native of Martin, Slovakia, has 11 points with nine assists. He had nine points and four assists with the Bolts in 25 games last season, his first with Tampa Bay. This will be his first Olympics appearance.
— Gudas: The 23-year-old native of Prague, Czech Republic, has 11 points with nine assists. He had five points and three assists with the Bolts in 22 games last season, his first with Tampa Bay. This will be his first Olympics appearance.
— Salo: The 39-year-old native of Turku, Finland, has seven points with six assists. A 15-year veteran, he spent four seasons with the Ottawa Senators and nine with the Vancouver Canucks before joining the Bolts before last season. He was a member of Finland’s 2006 Olympics squad that won the silver medal in Turin and its 2010 Olympics team that claimed the bronze in Vancouver.
— Gudlevskis: The 21-year-old native of Aizkraukle, Latvia, has a 7-5-1 record in the net with a 2.82 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage in the American Hockey League with the Syracuse Crunch. He was a fifth-round selection (124th overall) in the 2013 NHL draft. This will be his first Olympics appearance.