Center Steven Stamkos returned to practice with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday for the first time since undergoing surgery in mid-November.
Stamkos, sidelined since tearing the lateral meniscus in his knee on Nov. 15, joined his teammates for 15 minutes at the morning skate. His initial timetable for recovery was estimated at four months.
On Monday, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman expressed optimism earlier in the week that Stamkos would return to action before the end of the season.
Stamkos was off to a fast start this season with 20 points in 17 games at the time of the injury. The 27-year-old is in the first season of an eight-year deal agreed upon shortly before free agency on July 1.
Tampa Bay's top pick in 2009, Stamkos has 321 goals in 329 regular-season games, including a career-high and NHL-leading 60 in 2011-12.
Stamkos has also been sidelined with a few serious injuries in recent seasons.
He missed 55 games in the 2013-14 season with a broken leg. Last season, he dealt with a blood-clotting issue that kept him out of the postseason until Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.