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Steven Stamkos back for Game 7? Lightning coach is mum

PITTSBURGH – Jon Cooper sat down for his customary pregame press conference 90 minutes before the puck drops on Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

“Before we get going, don’t ask about the lineup. At all. Because I don’t know,” said the Tampa Bay Lightning coach. “OK, we’ve set that straight: Questions about Game 7?”

Sure. What’s Steven Stamkos’s status for Game 7? 

“Questions about Game 7. Let’s go,” said Cooper.

Stamkos said after an optional skate on Thursday morning that his status hadn’t changed. The star forward hasn’t played since March 31, out after surgery to correct a blood clot. He’s skated regularly throughout the postseason. He's waited for medical clearance and his coach’s decision to insert him back in the lineup.

Given the chance to rule out Stamkos for Game 7, Cooper punted. But then he’s known to have a go with the media now and again, treating reporters like a cat treats a ball of yarn.

“Listen: We’re preparing to put the best team on the ice to win Game 7. There are going to be guys that can’t play. Everybody that plays tonight, it’ll be because they were cleared to play and ready to go. Our guys are concentrating on winning Game 7,” he said.

“We’re going to put our best foot forward. And if Stamkos is in lineup, it's because we're putting our best foot forward. If he isn't, it's because he wasn't eligible to play."

Will Stamkos compete for the Lightning in Game 7? Bob McKenzie of TSN has made a lot of noise about it today. But I’m still leaning towards no, even if Cooper decides to initiate the ultimate troll job and puts him in warmups.

The game is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET, but games have already been played. 

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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