The Lightning returned to the friendly confines of Tampa Bay today to hold practice at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum following a week-long road trip north of the border. One of the big stories in camp has been the play of Brett Connolly.
With the season opener just days away, Connolly sat down with tampabaylightning.com to answer some fans’ questions submitted through Twitter about his experience and sudden success thus far at the team’s training camp. Here is what he had to say:
@seandbrosnan: What was it like to tie Steven Stamkos for the team lead with two goals in last Thursday’s 4-0 win over Montreal at the Bell Centre, specifically just after the roster had been significantly reduced?
BC: It was pretty cool. Of course it was exciting to get one a few nights before in Florida, but to get two at the Bell Centre, in such a historic building, was definitely something I’ll never forget.
@laurie_mcgee: After playing much of your recent career at the junior level, where teams travel on buses from city to city, what has been your experience in traveling on the team plane as part of an NHL club?
BC: Well it’s definitely different, but a lot of fun and very exciting. Especially where I’m from, the bus rides in juniors were a lot longer for me than they were for some guys on a few of the other clubs. But I think it’s a great lifestyle and it’s something I’m looking forward to experiencing the whole year.
@curiouslybaked: How did the team building exercises last week at the Mont Tremblant Resort in Quebec affect your play throughout the remaining preseason games?
BC: It’s a very beautiful resort. It was great to go there with your teammates and enjoy yourself, learn a little bit about the guys on the team and of course have some fun. I think in a way, it made me more comfortable when I got on the ice. It helps you communicate better on the ice with your teammates and helps you understand their tendencies a little bit. The guys have all been great in helping me become better. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
TBL.com: What did you learn about some of your new teammates during the road trip last week in Quebec?
BC: Well first and foremost they’re all great guys. I think I learned a little bit about Bugsy’s [Ryan Malone] personality last week. He’s a funny guy and he’s one of the ones everybody likes. He’s a good guy to hang around and I think he keeps the locker room pretty upbeat.
@creasesinger: Has being down in Florida for a good portion of the summer made you feel more at home here in the Tampa Bay area?
BC: Definitely. The whole experience to be down here has been good for me. I was fortunate to come down to Tampa at the beginning of the summer and to play as well as I did and to give myself a chance and show what I can do. For now, we’ll see what happens, but no matter what, this has been a great experience for me and I’ve learned a lot.
TBL: What has been one thing you’ve discovered in training camp that surprised you and that you didn’t expect before you arrived?
BC: I think personally for myself, you don’t really realize how much all the preparation during the summer really benefits you. I worked hard all summer and then to come here and see the results is pretty amazing. I think last year I was a little off in terms of my fitness level and now these last two weeks have been completely different, so I think coming here and performing at this level the way I have been has been eye-opening for me.
TBL.com: What adjustments did you have to make in your play to prepare for NHL preseason games after being accustomed to the style and pace of the junior leagues?
BC: I had to improve my fitness. The main factor in being successful at this level is to be in shape. Obviously you look at Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos and you know they’re talented, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that a lot of their success comes from their physical conditioning. I knew I had to be a lot better this time around than I was last year just to even give myself a chance. Again, if I was to look back to where I was a few months ago and think that I would be in this position now, I would take it and be content with what I’ve done.
TBL.com: You mentioned Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, and even got to play on the same line along both of them during a few exhibition games. Can you describe what that experience was like for you?
BC: It was fun, but I was also a little nervous. They did a great job in calming me down and helping me along the way. They are two of the best players in the world, so I think it is a privilege just to even be on the same team as them, but to play alongside them on the same line was a bit surreal and I consider myself very lucky. For the coaching staff to give me a chance to play with them also gave me a good feeling. It was definitely an exciting time and the highlight of my training camp.
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