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Lightning get boost as Stamkos cleared to play

(Reuters) - Tampa Bay Lightning scoring machine Steven Stamkos has been cleared to resume playing after being sidelined nearly fourth months with a broken leg, the center said on Wednesday.

Stamkos, who shared the National Hockey League lead in goals and assists at the time of his injury last November, is expected to be in the lineup on Thursday after missing 45 games when the Lightning host the Buffalo Sabres.

The 24-year-old center tweeted the news earlier on Wednesday when he wrote: "Just left the doctors office. Got the green light. See you tomorrow Bolts fans. Excited to be back!!"

Stamkos had originally hoped to rejoin the Lightning before last month's Sochi Games and potentially claim his spot on the Canadian men's Olympic team but was ruled out days before the tournament started.

The Lightning, who were leading the Atlantic Division when Stamkos was injured, have dropped to third place with 73 points but remain in position to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 20 games remaining in the regular season.

Stamkos, who has 14 goals and nine assists in 17 games this season, fractured his right tibia when he crashed into the post during a game against the Boston Bruins.

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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