By STEPHEN WHYNO AP Hockey Writer
EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Steven Stamkos made a lasting mark on this Stanley Cup Final with an iconic goal, though that could be the last time he takes this ice in the series.
Coach Jon Cooper said the injured Tampa Bay Lightning captain won’t play in Game 4 Friday night against the Dallas Stars. While Stamkos has not been ruled out for the series, it’s certainly possible after he played just 2:37 before tweaking something in Game 3.
“He felt he did a big part in helping us win that game,” Cooper said. “You’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt, and so far the hand’s been a pretty good one. It’s just unfortunate he hasn’t been able to be a part of it, but when he was able to, obviously he had a huge impact for us.”
Stamkos scored on his only shot Wednesday night, capping an emotional return almost seven months in the making and helping Tampa Bay take a 2-1 series lead. He hadn’t played since Feb. 25, had core muscle surgery in early March and aggravated the injury in voluntary workouts over the summer.
“We’ve known for a while that it was going to be tough for him to play in the early stages of the playoffs, but as they grew on, we thought there might be a chance and that chance came,” Cooper said. “We kind of had a timeline and a timeframe and it happened to be Game 3. It’s unfortunate he’s not able to continue to go.”
Fourth-liner Jason Dickinson has been one of the Stars’ best players in the final based on his usual defensive stinginess and some offensive production. After no goals in his first 21 postseason games, Dickinson has scored twice in this series.
Dickinson also draws the tough assignment of matching up against Tampa Bay’s top line of Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov.
“He’s a hard-working guy who doesn’t get a lot of credit sometimes,” said Stars center Tyler Seguin, who took a career playoff worst 12-game goal drought into Friday’s game. “(Given) all the other things he does right, you don’t even talk about the goal-scoring and he’s getting rewarded now, so that’s great.”
After running down Dallas’ injured players, interim coach Rick Bowness paused for a second and quipped, “There’s a lot of them.”
The injuries are piling up for the Stars. Center Radek Faksa, defenseman Stephen Johns and goaltender Ben Bishop remain unfit to play. Bowness said forward Blake Comeau would be a game-time decision Friday night.
Bishop, who hasn’t played since Game 5 of the second round when he was pulled after allowing four goals on 19 shots in under 14 minutes, joined the optional Friday morning skate toward the end to get some work in. Faksa, who was seen with his left wrist taped earlier in the playoffs, did not take part and Bowness wouldn’t bite on a question about whether he or Bishop were close.
“They’re unfit to play,” he said. “Good try, though.”