As Labor Day unofficially marked the end of summer Monday, the Tampa Bay Lightning will start to get back into the swing of things with informal practices throughout the week, before training camp opens next Wednesday, September 11.
The only difference in this year’s scenario, conveniently enough, is that the players are skating at the Tampa Bay Times Forum rather than the Brandon IceSports Forum where they’ve appeared in past seasons.
With just a handful of Bolts skating in Brandon last week, nearly 20 Lightning players/prospects suited up this morning including the familiar faces of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Teddy Purcell, Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn, Nate Thompson, Matt Carle and Anders Lindback.
New offseason acquisition Valtteri Filppula, who was seen skating with former Detroit Red Wings teammates last week, also skated today at the Forum along with highly-touted third overall pick in this year’s draft Jonathan Drouin. Prospects Tanner Richard, Nikita Kucherov and Kristers Gudlevskis also took part in the informal skate.
STAMKOS’ SEASON OUTLOOK
After spending the summer in Toronto with personal trainer and former Lightning forward Gary Roberts and fellow teammates B.J. Crombeen and Brett Connolly, Stamkos expressed how good it felt to return to Tampa and to get out on the rink, but also expressed the importance of getting the Lightning back into the “playoff mix.”
Entering his sixth season with the team, Stamkos said the waiting around era is over for Tampa Bay and that each player has to find their way individually to contribute to the Lightning’s success.
“For me it’s about creating offense and getting better overall on both sides of the ice,” said Stamkos.
He’ll also use this time as an opportunity to step-up with the absence of former captain Vincent Lecavalier.
“I think I’ve been able to learn from a lot of the veteran guys over the past five years,” he said. “It’s tough losing a guy like Vinny, but it gives other guys a chance to step up, myself included, and a chance to build through past experiences. I look forward to taking on that roll.”
ODDS AND ENDS
The practice mainly consisted of basic shooting and skating drills, before changing pace to some 3-on-3 work inside the blueline.
At the conclusion of practice, smiles, jokes and catch-up time filled several makeshift dressing rooms after the light skate, as the newly renovated locker room remains under construction throughout the preseason.
The Bolts informal skates will coincide with the opening of rookie camp on Wednesday at the Times Forum, as prospects will practice tomorrow and Thursday. They’ll then head to Coral Springs, Florida to take part in a rookie tournament hosted by the Florida Panthers this weekend and features the Panthers, Lightning, Nashville Predators and Boston Bruins rookie squads. For the complete list of game times and projected rookie camp roster, click here.