during Game Three of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center on June 8, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are getting set for a playoff run in the Eastern Conference, but they may have to continue playing without team captain Steven Stamkos for a while. A blood clot will force Stamkos to step away from his on-ice duties to undergo surgery in his right collarbone. The surgery will force Stamkos to miss anywhere between one and three months of hockey.

“Obviously, this situation is extremely disappointing because I wanted to help my team clinch a playoff spot and prepare for the start of the postseason,” Stamkos said in a statement Saturday. “During my recovery, I will do all I can to help my teammates, and I hope to rejoin them soon in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.”

The timing could not have been worse for Tampa Bay, of course, but a player’s health obviously comes first. Stamkos will undergo surgery on Monday, and then the countdown will officially be on for whenever he may be ready to play again for the Lightning. The only question left to answer is whether or not the Lightning will still be playing when he is cleared to return to the ice.

Stamkos leads Tampa Bay with 36 goals and 64 points. He also is due to head to free agency this offseason, which brings the possibility he has played his final game in a Lightning uniform. It is not a possibility Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman is avoiding discussing.

“Our hope, No. 1, is that he comes back to play this year,” Yzerman said. “And we want him to remain with the Lightning and we’re hoping at the right time we can make that happen.”

In the meantime, Tampa Bay has a roster spot to fill for the remainder of the regular season and beginning of the postseason. AHL star Jonathan Drouin recently returned from a suspension and may end up getting a call, but Yzerman has not made a decision on what to do just yet.

[Tampa Bay Times]

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Previously contributed to NBCSports.com. Host of the Locked On Nittany Lions Podcast. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.