At the opening faceoff to start the second Blue vs. White intrasquad scrimmage of Tampa Bay Lightning training camp, the familiar No. 91 of Steven Stamkos made an appearance on the Amalie Arena ice.
Stamkos was held out of Sunday's training session in Brandon as part of a scheduled day off for the Bolts captain, who is still recovering from a broken tibia that caused him to miss 45 games midway through the 2013-14 season.
Stamkos, playing on a line with Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan, was his usual self Monday, flying all over the rink, creating plays, making teammates better and just generally creating a sense of optimism at the prospect of a full season with the perennial Hart Memorial Trophy candidate on the ice.
"There's no sense to put more burden than he has to have," head coach Jon Cooper said. "We're really happy with where he's at. Clearly, he's got much more jump, confidence than he ever had during that last stretch of the year when he came back after the injury."
Stamkos said the plan for the preseason is for him to play at least three of the six games. The Lightning open the preseason Tuesday against the Nashville Predators at Amalie Arena (7:30 p.m. start).
"I've kind of realized what those off days can actually do to make your body feel good, and, today, it felt really good," Stamkos said. "Obviously, you want to be out there with the guys every day skating, especially scrimmaging. For me, now that I've been able to have those days off and see how good the body reacts the next day, it's definitely worth it."
Stamkos played throughout Monday's intrasquad scrimmage and had one shot on goal.
"It felt good to get out there and kind of get the legs going," he said.
Blue 3, White 1
Led by a pair of first period goals from Alex Killorn, the Blue team defeated the White team 3-1 over two full periods (running clock) in Monday's scrimmage.
Blue jumped out to a 3-0 lead before White got a goal back on a goal by Henri Ikonen, assisted by Cody Kunyk and Andrej Sustr. Neither team scored in the second period.
"We were just a lot sharper," Cooper said. "Yesterday, everybody was running around all over the place, and today, everybody played the game a little bit more under control, more poise. It made a better game."
Killorn, a 2007 third-round draft pick, scored in the opening minutes after an assist from Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov, along with Jason Garrison, assisted again on Killorn's second goal, which came a few minutes later. Blue led 2-0 with 15:04 remaining in the first.
"It's good I guess for the confidence or whatever, but you don't want to put too much into scoring in a scrimmage," Killorn said. "I think (Tuesday) will be a good test against Nashville."
Garrison made it 3-0 Blue on a blast from the blue line that found its way through a crowd in front of goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and into goal. Anthony DeAngelo and Cedric Paquette were credited with assists.
"There was definitely a lot more flow to (the scrimmage). It wasn't as choppy," Killorn said. "There were more passes being made, more plays being made. I think that just comes with understanding the system better and not just running around."
Ikonen scored just before the end of the first for the 3-1 final. Vasilevskiy (White) and Ben Bishop (Blue) started the game in net. Vasilevskiy made five saves on eight attempts and Bishop was 6-for-7. Evgeni Nabokov (White) and Gudlevskis (Blue) pitched shutouts in the second period.
Gudlevskis, in particular, made a pair of point-blank saves to keep the White team off the scoreboard in the second.
"I liked the fact that we were putting the puck in the net and there were a lot more scoring chances," Cooper said. "But somebody brought up 'If you have a lot more scoring chances, what's happened to our defense?'"
Lightning top prospect Jonathan Drouin is undergoing a more thorough examination by a doctor on his upper body injury Monday and could miss some of the preseason pending the results of that examination according to Cooper, who doesn't think the injury will be a long term, lingering issue. "What's bothering him, once it's better, it won't bother him again," Cooper said…2014 first round selection DeAngelo continues to garner praise. Monday, it came from Stamkos, who said that the 18-year-old shows more maturity than his age would indicate. "He's known for his offensive ability, but for a guy that's not the biggest guy, he's pretty smart out there," Stamkos said. "He has poise with the puck, so it was nice to see. He made some great passes [in the scrimmage]." DeAngelo had one assist and one shot on goal for the Blue team…Killorn (two goals), Kucherov (two assists) and Garrison (one goal, one assist) each registered two points Monday. Paquette and Kunyk had four shots on goal apiece to lead all players.