TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos will not play for Canada in the Sochi Olympics.
Steve Yzerman, the Lightning's general manager and Team Canada's executive director, said Wednesday that doctors ruled out Stamkos because he hasn't recovered sufficiently from a broken right leg.
Stamkos underwent a CT scan and met with team officials Wednesday. He was injured Nov. 11 and had surgery to have a titanium rod inserted into the tibia.
"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 injured 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. I look forward to returning to the Lightning once cleared by the medical team."
The center will be evaluated again in two to three weeks.
"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 percent consolidated, and Steven will not be cleared to play in a game until that happens," Yzerman said. "It was a pretty clear cut decision, no gray areas at all."
Stamkos has been practicing with the team and hoped to play Saturday night against Detroit, which is Tampa Bay's final game before the Olympic break. He had increased contact drills during practice this week.
In 17 games this season, he has 14 goals and nine assists.
Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh star and Canadian captain, was disappointed.
"It's tough to see. I think we all figured if there's anyone that's going to find a way back, it would be him," Crosby said, after scoring a goal and adding an assist in Pittsburgh's 5-1 win at Buffalo. "That being said, it's probably more difficult for him than anyone else. You feel for him, but we obviously have to move forward."
Crosby declined to suggest who he might favor as a candidate to replace Stamkos.
"With different guys in the mix, I think it's a good problem to have," Crosby said. "But nonetheless, I don't think it's an easy decision at all."
Among those in line to fill the roster spot are Stamkos' teammate, Martin St. Louis, and Philadelphia forward Claude Giroux and Pittsburgh's James Neal.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, who will be coaching the U.S. team, said Neal would be a good choice.
"I don't know what they're looking for, there's not a better shot release and a pure goal-scorer than James," Bylsma said. "I know they have some other good players and some tough choices to make, but James would be one who I wouldn't want to see with the puck on his stick over there."
Neal has 19 goals and 24 assists this season.
AP Sports writer John Wawrow in Buffalo, N.Y., contributed to this report.
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