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Tim Wharnsby - Wednesday Feb. 5, 2014 23:43

Steven Stamkos to miss Sochi Olympics

Team Canada GM to decide from list of 4 candidates

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Steven Stamkos was hoping that he would be able to play in the Sochi Olympics for Team Canada., but his broken leg hasn't healed in time for him to play. (Dave Reginek/NHL/Getty Images)
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SOCHI – Canadian men’s Olympic hockey team executive director Steve Yzerman will choose a replacement for Steven Stamkos within the next 48 hours.

Stamkos announced on Wednesday that he didn’t feel his injured right leg felt sturdy enough to play in the Olympics over the next few weeks and didn’t want to risk further damage to his leg.

“Today is obviously very disappointing for me,” Stamkos said in a statement. “I honestly believe that we did everything possible in order to have my leg ready in time for the Olympics, but I realize you can’t force healing. I know, in the best interest of my long term health, I cannot represent Canada in Sochi, as much as I would like to.”

Stamkos is expected to elaborate on his status after his practice with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

Yzerman remarked that Lightning's Martin St. Louis, Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux, Carolina Hurricanes forward Eric Staal and Pittsburgh Penguins sniper James Neal are the four main candidates to replace Stamkos.

Although he seemed to be making a remarkable recovery since breaking his right tibia on Nov. 11 and subsequent surgery in which a titanium rod was inserted, Stamkos’s comeback bid stalled in the last week or so. He had been experiencing pain when he made quick cuts while skating.

Don’t forget the initial diagnosis was three to six months. Three months, the earliest recovery date, would have been up next Tuesday, a couple days before Canada opens up its Olympic tournament against Norway.

Not soon enough

"After reviewing the CT scan this afternoon, [Lightning team physician] Dr. Gutentag made it clear to me and to Steven that the tibia is not completely healed and therefore he should not be participating in game action at any time in the near future," Yzerman said in a statement.

"Although the doctor was very pleased to this point with the healing process, he explained that the callus surrounding the fracture site is not 100 per cent consolidated, and Steven will not be cleared to play in a game until that happens. It was a pretty clear cut decision, no grey areas at all."

Stamkos met reporters for the first time walking without crutches two weeks after surgery, and was on the ice doing some light skating in early December. He hoped to play in a game or two this week, but he wasn’t experiencing the necessary feedback that made him confident he could suit up for the Lightning.

Yzerman, who also is the Lightning general manager, faces an interesting decision in choosing a replacement for his forward. Can he overlook St. Louis for a second time? The reigning NHL scoring champion did not make the initial Canadian roster on Jan. 7 because Yzerman didn’t have support of the rest of the management team and Olympic coaching staff.

Of the four Stamkos replacement candidates, Giroux and St. Louis have put up the best stats since the roster was announced last month.

  • Giroux – 5 goals, 17 points (15 games)
  • St. Louis – 8 goals, 15 points (12 games)
  • Staal – 4 goals, 9 points (10 games)
  • Neal – 3 goals, 9 points (12 games)

Although he plays centre Giroux also is the only right shot among this group. Neal and St. Louis are both left-shoot forwards who play right wing, while Staal is a left-shot centre.

Stamkos injury last fall snapped a consecutive game streak of 344 NHL games. He had scored a league-leading 14 goals and 23 points before his injury and, despite his absence, still leads all NHLers since the 2010 Olympics with 164 goals in 250 games. Alex Ovechkin is next with 149 goals in 266 outings.

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