Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos could return during the Stanely Cup Final. Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Lightning coach Jon Cooper: Steven Stamkos 'inching closer' toward return

We still don't have a definitive answer for whether or not Steven Stamkos will play in the Stanley Cup Final for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the forward is moving in the right direction. 

According to The Athletic's Joe Smith, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper revealed Wednesday that Stamkos is "inching closer" toward a return to the ice. 

If Stamkos ends up playing the Stanley Cup Final, there's no telling how he'll perform. Remember, the 30-year-old hasn't played a game since the regular season was halted in March.

With everything on the line, Cooper will do whatever it takes when it's all said and done. If he thinks Stamkos can make an impact, maybe he'll be inserted into the lineup. Otherwise, Tampa Bay will have to continue playing with the lineup it's rolled with throughout the postseason.

Tampa Bay defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins and New York Islanders to move on to its first Stanley Cup Final appearance since the 2014-15 season. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Bolts in six games to win the title that season.

The Lightning have not won a Stanley Cup since the 2003-04 season.

Erin Walsh is a Boston sports fan through and through. Although many think Boston sports fans are insufferable, Erin tries to see things from a neutral perspective. Her passion is hockey, and she believes defense wins championships. In addition to covering sports for Yardbarker, she covers Boston sports for NBC Sports Boston. Follow her on Twitter @ewalsh90

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