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Lightning build chemistry on recent road trip through Quebec

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning
With the opening game of the 2011-12 regular season just days away, head coach Guy Boucher had his team working hard last week prior to the team’s final two preseason games against the Canadiens.

After all, roster spots are being contested and important details in need of ironing out in preparation for the regular season opener.

But in order to build on what the team accomplished last spring, head coach Guy Boucher knew he would have to mix things up a little bit to keep his players refreshed and their minds sharp.

So, with a small break in the preseason schedule, Boucher, the team’s staff and the 25 players remaining in training camp spent a few days at the Mont-Tremblant Resort in Quebec to participate in team-building exercises designed to strengthen the bonds between existing team members, as well as to create new connections with those suiting up in the Bolts sweater for the first time.

“For a lot of us, it helped us get to know our teammates better,” center Blair Jones said. “It was a lot of fun for everyone and a great learning experience because it helps you gain an understanding of the guys around you outside of hockey. The coaches really value that.”

Assistant coach Dan Lacroix, who serves as the mastermind behind the planning and organization of such activities, spearheaded the effort with challenges designed to force players to think critically, communicate efficiently and work together in small groups in order to accomplish a goal.

Players were divided into five five-man teams and asked to complete eight different tasks. Included in the assignments were disc golf, folding sweaters in a specific design and building a three-dimensional puzzle. For earning a victory in each challenge, a team would receive a piece of hockey equipment that it carried around the town as it ventured from station to station. The team who collected the most equipment – consisting of Vincent Lecavalier, Pavel Kubina, Adam Hall, Blair Jones and Brett Connolly – not only won the grand prize of a small glass container in the shape of a maple leaf filled with maple syrup, but also had the privilege of presenting the equipment to a worthy cause, as all of it was donated to the Tremblant Minor Hockey Association.

The grand prize was not exactly the Stanley Cup, nor were the activities the sort of thing one would expect to find in an NHL training camp, but nonetheless just what the coaches ordered to build chemistry and a strong rapport among teammates.

“I think it built a lot of camaraderie,” Dana Tyrell said. “It shows you the importance of working as a team and a lot of that certainly applies to how we perform on the ice.”

While the day itself provided a few laughs and a lot of fun for all involved, a discussion regarding how each task was completed typically followed each activity. That, Boucher said, translates into improved performance on the ice and a strong, tangible sense of unity found in the locker room.

“I’ve found that you can measure a team’s togetherness by the way they communicate on the ice and on the bench, the way they interact outside of the rink and there’s a way you can judge by their reactions,” Boucher said. “Stuff like that just doesn’t happen. You have to work at it.”

OHLUND OUT?: Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund met with team medical director Ira Guttentag on Monday and had an MRI performed on his knee, which has been nagged by inflammation. General Manager Steve Yzerman confirmed Monday afternoon that Ohlund will start the season on Injured Reserve, which opens up a spot for Victor Hedman to potentially play on the top defensive pairing with Eric Brewer. Speaking of the possibility, Hedman said “I’m up to the challenge. I’ve said before I want to be a difference maker and be a force on the ice. That’s my goal.”

BIRTHDAY BOY: Defenseman Bruno Gervais celebrated his birthday Monday, as the Lightning blueliner, signed as a free agent on June 27, turns 27 years old.

MINOR MOVES: Norfolk Admirals General Manager Julien BriseBois assigned goaltender Pat Nagle and forward Alex Hutchings to the Florida Everblades of the ECHL Monday.

NO SUSPENSION FOR MALONE: Ryan Malone said he would have been “upset” if NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan handed him a suspension for a hit on Montreal defenseman Chris Campoli during Saturday’s 5-1 preseason defeat in Quebec City. Following an off-ice workout Monday in Brandon, Malone said he had absolutely no intent to injure and thought the hit itself was clean.

LIGHTNING LAUNCH: With the Lightning Launch happening tonight to kick off the 2011-12 regular season, goaltender Dwayne Roloson expressed his excitement over seeing the Steve Miller Band, who will perform as part of the event beginning at 7 p.m. at the St. Pete Times Forum.

“He’s an amazing artist,” Roloson said. “I definitely used to do a lot of studying to the Steve Miller Band and I’ve never seen him live in concert before, so I’m looking forward to it. It’s definitely exciting.”

Roloson also candidly admitted that while he enjoys Miller’s talents, he himself was never inclined musically inclined as a kid. “I was so bad that I think they actually kicked me out of music class in school,” Roloson added.

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