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Stamkos cleared to return from broken leg

<p>Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos has been cleared for contact.</p>

Tampa, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos has been cleared for contact.

"I can't believe it has been four months already. I'm ready to get back. I've put in the work. Hopefully it pays off," said Stamkos, who should hit the ice for the Bolts' contest Thursday against Buffalo. "I have a new perspective on my career as a pro athlete. I want to use this as motivation."

Stamkos suffered a fractured right tibia while backchecking on a play in the Tampa Bay zone in the second period of a 3-0 loss in Boston on Nov. 11, when he got tangled with Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Stamkos fell to the ice and slid feet-first before his lower right leg slammed into the right post, forcing the net off its moorings.

He underwent successful surgery the day after the incident and has defied the odds with a rapid rehabilitation process.

The 24-year-old forward was tied for the NHL lead in goals (14) and points (23) at the time of his misfortune. Tampa Bay currently ranks third in the Atlantic Division, and fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 34-23-5 record.

The club attempted to bolster its playoff positioning Wednesday in a reported deal to acquire Ryan Callahan from the New York Rangers in exchange for veteran Martin St. Louis.

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