"I guess the more time the better," Stamkos said on Tuesday after he participated in his team's morning skate at Toronto's Air Canada Centre.
"The objective is to play a game [with the Lightning], that would be something I would really love to do. But if that's not the case, there's going to be another discussion about whether or not I'm still going to be on that team if I can't play a game.
"We've had brief discussions about that. It's more or less been, 'We'll cross that bridge when we need to.'"
Other than Lightning ownership being hesitant to allow its superstar to risk further injury in the Olympics, what would be the harm of letting Stamkos go to Sochi without the benefit of playing a game or two in the NHL? He could have another few days of healing and practice time in Russia. He could start slowly in two games against Norway on Feb. 13 and Austria on Feb. 14. The risk, of course, would be that he isn't ready for prime time over there. Then, Canada would be stuck without an extra forward.
Ideally, Stamkos hoped to play either against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 6 and/or against the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 8. Both games will be in Tampa Bay. But even though he has participated in several Lightning practices, he needs to feel confident in practice to make the next step to game action.
"It's got to feel good in practice with some contact, there's no denying that," Stamkos said. "You can't mimic a game-like situation without playing in a game.
"But at least get a good couple of hard practices in with contact and we're not there yet. There's not a lot of time, [so] if it's going to happen, it's going to have to happen in the next week or so."
On Monday, Stamkos took a twirl around the rink, but quickly departed. He didn't feel right, but stated that he felt much better on Tuesday.
"From the beginning, we said there's going to be some days where it feels great, some days that it doesn't," Stamkos said. "That hasn't changed throughout the last couple of weeks.
"There have been a lot of good days, so yesterday you're a little frustrated when it doesn't feel as nice as you want it to. But again, it's nothing that hasn't happened in the past.''
'It's getting close'
Is there a deadline to make a final decision with Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, who also is the executive director of Canada men's team?
"Not really, but it's getting close," Stamkos said. "We have, what, two weeks at the most.
"Obviously, there will be a lot of discussions over the next few days in regard to how it's feeling. The goal was that I would like to get in at least one game if I'm going to go play in the Olympics.
"We're still on that track right now. We'll see where it goes."
"If we have to sit down a couple of days before we have to leave for the Olympics, we can be honest with each other," Stamkos noted. "If I say that I'm at the level I think I need to be at to compete at the Olympics, I think he's going to have the trust in me that I can go over there and play at that level.
"But at the end of the day, I have to be honest with him. If I say I'm not ready, obviously I'm not going to go.''
'A long process'
Stamkos' injury last fall snapped a consecutive-game streak of 344 NHL games. He had scored a league-leading 14 goals and 23 points before his injury and, despite his absence, still leads all NHLers in goals since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with 164 in 250 games. Alex Ovechkin is next with 146 in 261 games.
"It's been a long process," Stamkos said. "The strides that we've made have been a little bit quicker than probably I've expected.''
It was only 78 days ago that Stamkos suffered a broken right tibia in a Remembrance Day matinee at Boston. Stamkos was back-checking Bruins defenceman Dougie Hamilton when the two bumped and Stamkos was knocked off balance. He hit the ice and his right leg slammed into the goal post.
Trainer Tommy Mulligan rushed to his side, but it was evident the Lightning sniper was in pain.
Here is a timeline in his remarkable recovery:
Nov. 12 - He underwent surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in which a rod was inserted into his injured right leg.
Nov. 25 - He stunned the hockey world when he walked into a room full of reporters without crutches to discuss his injury and comeback. "I would like to think that being able to walk two weeks after without the crutches or the walking boot is a good sign," Stamokos said.
Dec. 14 - Stamkos was back on skates. The Lightning recorded a short session on videotape in which he did some stickhandling drills and traded passes with teammates Martin St. Louis and Victor Hedman in New Jersey.
Jan. 2 - He participated in a few drills with Lightning teammates in Calgary.
Jan. 7 - He was named to the Canadian Olympic team.
Jan. 13 - He remarked that the only discomfort he was having in his on-ice sessions were when he did crossovers or put all his weight on his right leg. "When I'm on the ice, yeah, I try to do certain movements that bug me, I try to keep doing them," he said. "There is still discomfort. Even when I'm back playing there might still be a little discomfort. It's just a matter of having to deal with it."
Jan. 16 - He participated in his first full morning skate with the Lightning at home before his teammates played the New York Islanders. "It felt great," Stamkos said. "It's probably the best it's felt. There's still pain, still hesitation in certain movements, as you could probably see with crossovers and turns, anything that puts torque on the leg. It's still a sensitive area, but it's improved. Even compared to one and a half, two weeks ago, it's improved. We're looking good right now."
Jan. 23 - He had his 10-week X-ray taken and the results were "encouraging." He also fell during a drill and was OK, which he said, mentally, was another hurdle cleared.
Jan. 25 - He moved from a red, non-contact practice sweater to a yellow, light-contact sweater.
Jan. 27 - After taking a short twirl, Stamkos came off the ice. He said he didn't feel right, but remarked that his short on-ice stint was not a setback. Instead, he went for an off-ice workout.
Jan. 28 - He participated in his team's morning skate in Toronto.
Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC
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