For Lightning center Steven Stamkos, the equation was pretty simple.

With star wing Marty St. Louis out for who knows how long with facial fractures, a leadership void had to be filled.

Stamkos said he knew it would be a team effort. Even so, "I told myself I had to step up, whether it was in the room or lead by example on the ice. It had to be done because we knew what we were missing with Marty out."

Stamkos has risen to the occasion, getting three goals and five points in the past two games. His legs look fresh, and his average 23:41 of ice time in the four games St. Louis has missed since being hit by a puck Dec. 8 dwarfs his 20:40 season average.

As an exclamation point, Stamkos' 19 goals are tied for the league lead, and his 35 points are tied for fourth.

"We didn't expect anything less," St. Louis said. "The kid has the most goals in the league the past three years. He's hungry. He looks hungry out there."

For Stamkos, 21, St. Louis' injury offers an interesting opportunity.

"I'd rather have Marty on the ice," Stamkos said.

But St. Louis' absence — he will miss his fifth game tonight against the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena — gives Stamkos a chance to flex his leadership muscles a little more than he might have otherwise.

Stamkos said before the season he wanted to cultivate more of a leadership role, and coach Guy Boucher made him an alternate captain when defenseman Mattias Ohlund was injured.