With the final roster due Monday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Lightning complete their preseason schedule tonight in Sunrise, Florida against the Florida Panthers. Final cuts could come as soon as after the game, reducing their camp list by more than a dozen players.
Making a strong argument for themselves on Thursday night, the former AHL line of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Richard Panik, or the "Kid Line" as they were called in Syracuse, hope to be a package deal on Tampa Bay’s NHL roster. The Lightning also must decide what to do with No. 3 draft pick Jonathan Drouin.
Bolts veterans have been trying their best to accommodate the roster surplus, while preparing themselves for a regular season that is less than a week away.
“You have to have that mentality that once the puck drops, to try to do anything you can to help your team win,” Steven Stamkos said. “Whether we are in the preseason or regular season, that should be your mindset, so for me it’s not too difficult now.”
They also have been placing a higher value on every opportunity to practice they get.
“In practices you just want to make sure you’re executing and doing the little things,” Ryan Malone said. “You have to pretend it’s like a game when you’re out there and go hard. It simulates a game and then when you step out there its a little easier.”
And while Stamkos has no intention of watching a game from the stands during the regular season, he thought it was a nice change of pace to be an observer Thursday night in Estero.
“It was good to actually sit and watch a game Thursday from the stands because it just gives you a different perspective,” he said. “You get to see the play develop, so it’s a good learning tool as well.”
MALONE RETURNS TO PRACTICE
Absent for one practice and one game (upper-body injury), Malone skated with the Lightning on Friday, but will not be playing in Saturday’s tilt with their division foes. Malone and head coach Jon Cooper reassured the media though, that it was completely precautionary and he is not expected to miss the beginning of the season.
“We just thought it was best to kind of relax and make sure everything’s still good,” Malone said. “There’s really no concern, it is just part of the plan to make sure you’re ready for game one.”
Tampa Bay will face a quick turnaround at the close of training camp, as they transition to the regular season. The standards of how they want to play have been instilled and the next step in the process of formulating a competitive team is the details.
“Now the systems and the technical aspects of the game will be put in,” Cooper said. “These are pretty bright guys with high hockey IQ and we’re not reinventing the wheel, but it should be no problem for them.”
ODDS ‘N ENDS
Tonight’s lineup – Drouin-Stamkos-St. Louis; Killorn-Filppula-Purcell; Palat-Johnson-Panik; Brown-Connolly-Kucherov; Defensive Pairings – Hedman-Salo, Carle-Gudas; Cote-Sustr. Mark Barberio is making the trip, but is expected to be a healthy scratch.
Goaltender Anders Lindback will be tonight’s starter between the pipes.