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Stamkos still day-to-day, not ready to return tonight

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Lightning defeated the Islanders 6-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos seems to be inching closer to a return to the lineup, but it will not be on Saturday night when the team hosts the Montreal Canadiens as they continue their late season push for a playoff spot.

The Lightning will also continue to be without Tyler Johnson, Cedric Paquette and Jason Garrison on Saturday, but should be getting Nikita Kucherov back (named the NHL’s No. 1 star of the month on Saturday) after he missed Thursday’s game due to an illness.

Stamkos remained noncommittal on Saturday when talking about his potential return to the lineup this season with Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.

From the Times:

“You never know. It could be next game (Sunday against Dallas). It could not even be the rest of the season. I’m not going to go out there until I know I’m confident in what I can do and have no hesitation.”

Stamkos has been sidelined since November due to a knee injury that required surgery. At the time his expected recovery was somewhere around four-to-six months. As of Saturday, he is at around four-and-a-half months since the surgery.

Before the injury Stamkos was off to an incredible start to the season with 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 17 games.

The Lightning have been on a roll for the better part of the past month, playing some of their best hockey of the season even as they have lost several players. They will need to be even better of the next week (and get some help along the way) if they are going to overcome the three-point deficit they are facing in the playoff race.