Inside the locker room at Amalie Arena, newly-acquired Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman sits at his stall, unwrapping tape and taking off his pads following the second day on the ice at Lightning training camp.
To Stralman’s right stands fellow Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman, his locker directly next door.
The closeness in the clubhouse is fitting. Stralman was signed on the first day of free agency with the hope of pairing on the ice with the budding superstar Hedman, who had a breakout year in 2013-14 with career highs in goals (13), assists (42) and points (55) during the regular season.
The two have been skating together during the opening days of training camp. When the Lightning begin preseason Tuesday at home against the Nashville Predators, there’s a good chance Hedman and Stralman will be starting together.
“We’ve been practicing together for two days now and obviously finding some chemistry together,” Hedman said. “It’s a lot of fun if we get to play together, but, overall, everybody’s looking good out there.”
Stralman, who signed a five-year deal with the Lightning over the summer, brings plenty of experience. Entering his eighth season in the NHL, the 28-year-old has played in 394 total games, logging 18 goals, 94 assists and 112 points. Skating for the New York Rangers the past three seasons, Stralman helped the Rangers to three-straight postseason appearances, including a run to the Stanley Cup Finals last year.
In those three years in New York, Stralman appeared in 55 playoff games.
“A lot of these guys we brought in, the Morrows, and Stralmans and Garrisons, if you watch closely, you can hear them all on the ice,” Bolts head coach Jon Cooper said. “They’re veterans. They talk. They’ve been around the league. Their NHL hockey IQ is just a little bit ahead of guys that haven’t been in the league that long. It’s great to have that kind of presence.”
The Lightning have struggled in recent seasons defensively, something Stralman hopes he can change through his consistency."
“If one guy’s playing real well defensively, it’s kind of contagious,” Stralman said. “It’s something that other players trying to find their way can look up to a little bit…From the way it looks these first two days, it looks like we’re changing our defensive mentality from previous years and chasing consistency.”
With the defensemen Tampa Bay brought in during the offseason combined with the talent already on the team, Stralman said the Lightning have the makings of a good defensive squad.
“There’s no reason for us not to be one of the top defensive teams in the league,” he said. “It’s just a matter of learning the system and buying into it. Defense is not just the defensemen. It’s all five guys on the ice working together.”
Drouin Held Out
Top prospect Jonathan Drouin, the third overall pick in the 2013 draft, wasn’t on the ice for his group’s training camp session Saturday. Drouin is day-to-day with an upper body injury.
“This is by no means serious,” Cooper said. “…He’ll be back next week at some point.”
Cooper wasn’t sure when the injury occurred but said it happened since Drouin returned to Tampa following the rookie showcase in Nashville.
Drouin won’t play in Sunday’s intrasquad scrimmage at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum according to Cooper but should be available for one of the team’s upcoming preseason games.
DeAngelo enjoying first camp
At various times during the opening of training camp, 2014 first-round draft pick (19th overall) Anthony DeAngelo has found himself on the ice defending the likes of Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan and Ondrej Palat. The 18-year-old admits facing such offensive firepower can be eye-opening, but, at the same time, a fun challenge.
“Obviously, you’re a little bit nervous your first couple of days here with these guys, but they treat you well and make you feel like part of the team right away,” DeAngelo said. “You’ve just got to go out there and play your game.”
DeAngelo said the key to performing up to expectations is by not trying to do too much and staying in one’s comfort zone.
“I just do what the coaches tell me to do, and, hopefully, if I get in a game when that time comes, just make the plays that they brought me in to do.”
Blue vs. White Scrimmage
Cooper said the goal of Sunday’s intrasquad scrimmage is to see the team execute all of the points the coaching staff has made during the first two days of training camp.
“I know it’s not going to be perfect, and mistakes are going to be made,” he said. “But, this is when you make the mistakes…Just slowly trying to implement the system but still play with vigor and aggression and all that other stuff.”
The scrimmage is scheduled to last 45 minutes and starts at 11:15 a.m. The Lightning will hold another intrasquad scrimmage at Amalie Arena on Monday.