Tampa Bay Times

Stamkos out vs. Preds,

- BY EDUARDO A. ENCINA Times Staff Writer Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @Eddieinthe­Yard.

TAMPA — Steven Stamkos missed Saturday night’s game against the Predators in Nashville because of an unspecifie­d injury, but Lightning coach Jon Cooper was cautiously optimistic that the captain wouldn’t be out long term.

Stamkos, who left Thursday’s game in Columbus in the third period in obvious discomfort, also was considered doubtful for Tuesday’s road game against the Predators, Cooper said, but he hoped Stamkos could return shortly after the Lightning return home from this trip, which ends Tuesday.

“We’re hopeful he’s going to be back here soon,” Cooper said. “A lot of this is precaution, too. When you’re on the road, it’s a little bit different than being at home, and so we’re just taking this slowly, and hopefully it will all be good by time we get back to Tampa.”

In Thursday’s game, Stamkos hunched over in discomfort after a backhand pass up the ice, then skated off and into the dressing room.

The Lightning didn’t release details about the injury. Asked Saturday whether it could be related to the core muscle issues that prompted two surgeries for Stamkos last year, Cooper said, “I can only tell you what I know, and I’m looking for the guys here that are playing. (Stamkos is) not. He’s getting checked out.”

Stamkos entered Saturday leading the Lightning in goals with 17, including a team-high 10 on the power play.

Forward Gemel Smith filled Stamkos’ spot on the roster. Smith hadn’t played in an NHL game since Feb. 25, spending time on the taxi squad and with AHL Syracuse.

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