Steven Stamkos returns to Lightning lineup for Game 3 against Stars

Steve Stamkos is back, making a dramatic return from injury in the Stanley Cup final.

The Tampa Bay Lightning captain, who hadn’t played since Feb. 25 and had core muscle surgery in March, returned to the ice Wednesday night in Game 3 against the Dallas Stars in Edmonton.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper had been cagey about a possible return by Stamkos, who had 66 points in 57 games in the regular season. But Cooper said he had expected Stamkos to return at some point in the series.

“He is a threat, so he’s another thing for a team to think about when he’s out there,” Cooper said prior to the game. “Whether that’s on the power play or five-on-five. You get another player that if the puck gets on his stick in the offensive zone, it might go in the net.

“That’s (big) especially in a series where goals are at a premium.”

It was 210 days between games for Stamkos, who was expected to miss about two months after surgery on March 2, but had a setback before the playoffs.

He has returned in dramatic fashion before. On April 2, 2016, the Lightning announced Stamkos was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, requiring surgery that cost him most of the playoffs. He returned for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final, a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kevin McGran

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