Newly signed free agent forward, Cody Kunyk, may have been used to being in the upper echelon of hockey in the college ranks, but his first practice with the Tampa Bay Lightning quickly brought him back to the days of being a rookie.
"I didn't want to go out there and make a fool out of myself or ruin the rhythm of practice for the other guys," Kunyk said after Tuesday's practice.
"I thought it was going to be a lot more intimidating, but everybody welcomed me with open arms."
Kunyk's 24-hour trip from Alaska to Tampa, where he said he had just enough time to do his laundry in between flights, served as an introduction to the new challenges he will face in the pros.
"The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is already on that big, long schedule with major road trips, so I think that's a little bit of a change," former college signee J.T. Brown said. "College only plays 30 games, so that's a change you need to get used to in your first year."
The transition also means a complete focus on the game.
"There are so many different facets to your life in college," head coach Jon Cooper said. "When you're in the pros it is strictly hockey oriented all day, every day."
Yet that is precisely why the 23-year-old wanted to get an early start with the Bolts, who are amidst a run for a postseason berth.
When working on his first NHL contract, Kunyk opted to sign with the team right away, when he could have signed in July. Because of his age, he said he wanted to be exposed immediately.
"I'm going to learn more from not playing because every other team I've been on, I've been the guy that's relied upon and maybe had the easier route," he said. "Coming here that's not going to be the case."
Cooper did not rule Kunyk completely out for this year, saying "we might need him to play at some point." Kunyk was also a part of the Lightning's development camp in July and said that played a factor in his decision to join Tampa Bay.
WORDS OF WISDOM
"Take everything in. That's what I did right away. You just need to learn from all the guys. I learned from [Nate] Thompson, Marty [St. Louis], [Teddy] Purcell my first year. So just come in and take it all in."
- J.T. Brown on what Kunyk should take out of his NHL experience
WORKING ON HIS SWING
Steven Stamkos' game-tying, power-play goal at 5:44 of the third period Monday may have been inspired from his previous stint as a baseball player.
Stamkos said growing up as a kid he played baseball and it was almost as if his natural instincts took over as he choked-up and hit the puck past Robin Lehner.
"I think that could be 'D' all of the above," Cooper said when he was asked what was more impressive: his patience to wait for the puck to come down, choking up on his stick or actually making contact with the puck.
GOALIES IN THE SYSTEM
Bolts goaltending prospect Andrey Vasilevskiy helped Salavat Yulaev to a 3-1 lead in the Eastern semifinals best-of-seven series versus Barys in the Kontinental Hockey League playoffs.
In the 3-2 overtime victory, which was the third overtime game of the series, Vasilevskiy stopped 38 of 40 shots he faced.
Salavat could clinch a berth into the next round of the postseason with a win in their next meeting against Barys on Thursday.
Another netminding prospect, Adam Wilcox, who was drafted by the Lightning in the sixth round (178 overall) of the 2011 entry draft, will join the University of Minnesota in the first round of the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Tournament Saturday.
To learn more about Wilcox and the other Bolts' prospect that play in the opening round of the NCAA tournament click here: http://lightning.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=711108
OTHER ODDS 'N ENDS
- Tuesday's practice was an optional skate with Ben Bishop, Ryan Callahan, Valtteri Filppula and Stamkos absent.
- The Lightning's point streak of nine games is the longest since the 2003-04 season in which they recorded points in 18 straight games (February 5-March 12).