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Monday, November 25, 2013
There's no betting against Steven Stamkos

By Pierre LeBrun

It is still early to read too much into it. It's been only two weeks since Steven Stamkos broke his leg, and it'll just be two weeks Tuesday since he had surgery.

But seeing him walking without crutches Monday certainly raised hopes both for Tampa Bay Lightning fans and for all Canadians with the Olympics in mind.

"I can't believe that I'm able to walk without any boot or crutches less than two weeks later," Stamkos, who got out of a walking boot over the weekend, told reporters in Tampa in his first comments since the brutal injury.

At the very least, considering the usual recovery of three to six months for a broken leg, it does appear the Tampa star will be on the shorter end of that time frame.

"It's early, but our initial impression is that we're encouraged he'll be back on the shorter end of the recovery time period -- which is very broad -- but it looks initially that he'll be back on the sooner rather than later end of that three-to-six-months recovery period," Tampa GM Steve Yzerman told ESPN.com Monday.

The team still has no official timeline for Stamkos. Yzerman also cautioned that it was early and that more would be known at some point in the next few weeks when X-rays would reveal how much the bone has healed.

Because while it's great to see Stamkos putting weight on his leg and walking without crutches, the reality is he's also walking on that titanium rod that's been inserted and his bone still has to heal.

If Stamkos is indeed ready to go only three months after his surgery, that's smack-dab into early to mid-February ... right before the Sochi Olympics. It's uncanny how it's all leading to that time frame. What a decision, on all fronts.

Yzerman, who doubles as Team Canada head honcho, says it doesn't matter which GM hat he's wearing, the goal is the same.

"It's one and the same: We want a healthy Stammer," Yzerman said. "And not just for this year, but for a long time to come. The No. 1 underlining factor is that we're going to make sure we do what's best for Steven's long-term health. He's 23 years old. He's got a long career ahead of him. We're not going to do anything that jeopardizes him. He's not coming back before he's 100 percent ready."

In other words, there is no rushing him back. He'll be ready when he's completely ready.

But the Olympics remain in play as a possibility. The betting money is that Team Canada would name him before the Dec. 31 roster deadline, then replace him before flying to Russia in early February if he's not ready to go.

It still seems like a long shot for Stamkos to be ready in time, but who would bet against this guy?