Forgive the Tampa Bay Lightning if the team’s training camp this year is a bit of a misnomer.
Whereas in years past when the annual preseason exhibition has been characterized by various drills and first-hand looks at up-and-coming prospects, this time around might just be a bit different than usual.
The idea is to simulate the rigors of the regular season, which due to the work stoppage that came to a halt on Sunday, is expected to be shortened to 48 games.
Getting the team off to a fast start will be crucial. There will be little room for error and simply no time to dwell on even a brief losing streak. Just as much, the team will not be able to afford leaving points behind on the table should it lose in a shootout.
So, instead of schooling players on the importance of being first on the puck or dissecting the nuances of the 1-3-1, head coach Guy Boucher said during a media scrum on Monday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum that camp would feature more scrimmages, more physicality and more of a demand on players to best put themselves in a game-type mentality.
“There is definitely going to be urgency from the first period of the first game all the way until the last period of the last game,” Boucher said. “Every game is going to be one of those that just means so much.”
All of it makes a lot of sense, really.
Martin St. Louis leads fellow Lightning players in a drill on Tuesday at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum.
With games occurring more frequently during any given week, each member of the team will be forced to adopt, as forward Teddy Purcell called it, “a short memory.” The travel schedule will be more rigorous, with additional team-bonding activities slated to take place on road trips. Injuries initially forecasted to keep guys out for one week could end up resulting in that player missing perhaps four or five games, rather than three they would otherwise miss throughout the course of a traditional 82-game regular season.
“It’s going to be different, but if there’s one thing that makes it easier it’s that every team is in the same boat,” Purcell added. “Everyone has to be in the same mindset and on the same page, that’s for sure.”
There is also this for sure:
The Lightning will be challenged night in and night out to play at a high level with an extra sense of urgency and a degree of consistency. After all, a winning streak of five or six games could drum up some momentum that could translate into a few good weeks, ultimately resulting in the difference between playing in the postseason and not.
“The expectations are high for this season,” captain Vincent Lecavalier said.
The stakes are even higher.