Can Lighting stay afloat without Stamkos? 

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
11:16
AM ET
Ben Bishop, Martin St. LouisScott Audette/NHLI/Getty ImagesBen Bishop and Martin St. Louis have been pivotal for Tampa Bay following Steven Stamkos' injury.
Steven Stamkos has become a bit of a medical expert during the course of the recovery of his broken leg. He was already someone fascinated by injuries, recovery and the lengths players go to in order keep playing. He'll watch a guy get stitches if allowed. The doctors in Tampa are well aware of his fascination.

"They'll ask me to come look at X-rays and stuff," Stamkos said.

So naturally, he's become an absolute expert on what it takes to recover from a broken right tibia.

"When it happens to you, you're definitely intrigued," he said. "You want to know what's going on with every little detail."

His meticulous education -- along with being a Gary Roberts-trained physical specimen -- means he's blowing through even the most optimistic recovery timelines. It hasn't happened by accident. When the Lightning are playing, he's working, rehabbing by doing anything he can to join them on the ice.

But sometimes he just sits and watches. He'll go up to the press box with some of the other scratches and take in a game. It's a different team in front of him than when he was healthy. Naturally, scoring is down, which comes as no surprise when you subtract a player who had been converting on 23.3 percent of his shots, good for 14 goals in 17 games before the injury. The Lightning have now played 16 games since that Nov. 11 game in Boston, and the plunge the hockey world anticipated from a team that got off to a surprising start pre-Stamkos injury hasn't happened.

Tampa was 12-4-0 before the injury. In the 16 games since, the Lightning are 7-6-3. Looking at their schedule during that stretch, including the three-game California series that crushes nearly every Eastern Conference team, it's a record that may not be too far removed from what it would have been with Stamkos in the lineup. So how have they done it?