The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to get in the win column for the first time this preseason when they host the Florida Panthers tonight at Amalie Arena in game No. 2 of the exhibition schedule for the Bolts.
The Lightning are coming off a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Tuesday's preseason opener. The Panthers split a doubleheader with Nashville on Tuesday.
The Bolts will welcome a few veteran faces to the Amalie Arena ice tonight as forwards Cedric Paquette and Brian Boyle along with defenseman Jason Garrison will make their preseason debuts. Boyle said it's always fun to get back out on the ice for the first preseason game, even if it doesn't count in the standings.
"You have to go into it focused and playing the right way to avoid any injury," he said. "You have to prepare yourself like it would be a game. It's been a long time off. You have to use these exhibition games for the right reasons, so play hard and work with the right systems and the right kind of habits, try to break some of those summer league habits some of us might have had creep into our games."
With Tampa Bay's World Cup of Hockey participants still unavailable for preseason games, the Lightning continue to work a number of prospects into the game-day lineup, like Brayden Point, who scored the Bolts' first goal on Tuesday, and Tanner Richard, who led the Syracuse Crunch with 54 points (11 goals, 43 assists) last season.
"You think back on our time, we were all a first-year guy at some point," Boyle said. "It's a really exciting time. As you get older, the exhibition games, especially after long playoff runs, don't necessarily mean the same as they did in your first year. For these guys, it's huge, so it's our responsibility to play as well as we can as vets and try to talk to these guys on the bench and talk to these guys that might be new to the system and try and help them out as best we can. That just helps our organizational depth."
TRICKLING IN: Yesterday, a handful of the Lightning's World Cup of Hockey participants got their first action of training camp as Ben Bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Nikita Nesterov, Jonathan Drouin, Valtteri Filppula, Ondrej Palat and Andrej Sustr all skated at Amalie Arena. On Thursday, Vladislav Namestnikov returned to Amalie Arena from his stint with Team Russia to take his routine, beginning-of-the-year physical before he can rejoin the team. Namestnikov said getting the chance to learn from guys like Alex Ovechkin and Pavel Datsyuk in Toronto was an unreal opportunity.
"You try to pick up a little something from everyone," Namestnikov said. "You look at how they work off and on the ice."
Team North America was one of the surprises of the tournament, beating Team Finland 4-1 in its opener and knocking off Team Sweden, one of the pretournament favorites, 4-3 in overtime. Drouin said he was familiar with most of his North America teammates from playing with or against them at World Juniors, which led to the instant chemistry they displayed on the ice.
"Practices, the first day, was so fast, and everybody was kind of the first day rusty and you could tell guys were flying out there," Drouin said. "Our team was really fun to be a part of, all the same kind of age group. We were all together all the time, and it was definitely great."
During the tournament, a number of hockey experts said Team North America could compete in the NHL and do quite well, maybe even make the playoffs over a full 82-game schedule.
Is that idea far-fetched?
"Maybe we'd miss some experience in a long season but for a short tournament like that, I thought we were fine with the experience part," Drouin answered. "It was definitely a cool thing, and I'm hoping for other guys to live that in the next couple years."
Sustr, who played and scored a goal for Team Czech Republic, said it was equally an honor to represent his home country as well as compete against hockey's elite at the WCH
"It was my first experience with the national team, so being on such a big stage is something I think I'm going to look back on a few years from now and remember being part of such an elite group," Sustr said. "It's definitely going to be one of my favorite memories from my career."
Sustr scored on Team North American goaltender and Bolts teammate Ben Bishop during the final game for both teams at the WCH. On Tuesday, Bishop jokingly said he let Sustr score to build the defenseman's confidence for the upcoming NHL season.
A day later, Sustr fired back.
"I'm sure it wasn't the first or last goal I'll score him," Sustr said with a laugh.
LINE COMBINATIONS: The Tampa Bay Lightning will go with the following lines and defensive pairings for tonight's game versus the Panthers
Boyle Paquette Condra
Morin Point Bournival
Gourde Peca Conacher
Dumont Richard Halmo
Kristers Gudlevskis and Adam Wilcox are expected to again share the goaltending duties tonight for the Lightning.