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Practice notebook: Lightning back in Tampa Bay following western road swing

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning returned to Amalie Arena Monday morning for their first practice session at home in 11 days.

The Lightning won three of five games on its first road trip of the season, bringing six of a possible 10 points back to Tampa Bay.

“Overall, we’re pretty happy with how we played in the five games in general,” Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness said.

A 7-2 loss to Minnesota on Saturday certainly put a mood-dampening finish on an otherwise successful road trip, but Bowness said when assessing a road trip, more emphasis should be put on how the team played rather than the end result.

“We certainly played well enough in Vancouver to win,” Bowness said. “We didn’t like how we played in Edmonton regardless of that score, even though it was 3-2, tied it up late, we weren’t happy with that game. Calgary…we’ll take that, even though we had to scramble at the end to find a way to win, we found a way to win. The game in Winnipeg was solid and clearly not happy with what happened in Minnesota regardless of that score.”

Bowness said the team would push Saturday’s five-goal loss to the Wild from its mind as quickly as possible.

“Win or lose, you play a game, you assess it, you address it and you move on,” he said. “Coming off a win in Winnipeg, you go in (to Minnesota), some of those crazy things happened early that normally don’t happen. But, it’s how we handle it. You want to handle some of those situations better for sure so they don’t run up seven on us, but, again, you move on. Our focus now is on (Tuesday) night and the Arizona Coyotes.”

BROWN, KILLORN NEAR RETURN

J.T. Brown and Alex Killorn are both close to returning to action after being diagnosed with upper-body injuries during the road trip.

Brown was crushed into the boards by Winnipeg’s Chris Thorburn in the first period on Friday and had his head and face smashed against the glass. Killorn took a nasty spill in morning skate prior to the Edmonton game last Monday and missed four-straight games.

Both Brown and Killorn trained fully with the team Monday and showed no signs of the injuries that had previously slowed them down. For Brown, it was his first day practicing (Killorn was back Thursday).

“Felt pretty good today,” Brown said. “Obviously, it’s a little bit faster than riding the bike, tempo-wise, but it was good.”

Brown said as he was down on the ice assessing the damage to his body following the hit, he knew something was wrong but couldn’t pinpoint what exactly.

“I didn’t think it was something that would be long term, but at the same time, you’ve got to worry about taking the right steps and making sure everything’s safe,” Brown said.

STRALMAN STANDS OUT

Anton Stralman currently leads all NHL defenseman with a +9 rating and is third in the league overall among all skaters.

Stralman ranks second on the Bolts with six assists.

“When you watch him in games, and obviously we watched a lot in the playoffs last year and then we watch him in preseason, he moves the puck really well,” Bowness said. “It’s why the points are there. His shot isn’t what you would call overbearing, but it’s accurate. He gets it down to the net and it’s heavy enough to score more goals than he did last year.”

Stralman is adjusting to life without fellow Swedish defender Victor Hedman and has assumed more of leadership role among the Lightning blue liners in Hedman’s absence. He’s also adapting to new defensive partner Matt Carle.

“It’s been pretty good so far, I think,” Stralman said. “Matty’s a real solid D-man, easy to play with. He’s always in the right position, so, so far, so good.”

Stralman said the system that Tampa Bay plays allows him to find more success offensively. In 81 regular season games with the New York Rangers last season, Stralman had just one goal and 12 assists.

Stralman’s best offensive season came in 2009-10 with the Columbus Blue Jackets when he scored six goals and added 28 assists for a career-high 34 points.

“The system we’re trying to play [in Tampa Bay] is a lot of involvement for the D, and that’s something that I’m trying to take advantage of,” Stralman said. “It’s been working at times, and at times, I’ve been making the wrong reads, dumping in the wrong place. You’ve got to do it wrong sometimes to learn how it works right. I’ll try to work on it even better and be even more of a threat.”

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