During the opening drill of the first on-ice day of Lightning training camp at Amalie Arena, Steven Stamkos raced with a puck on his stick toward goaltender Ben Bishop on the other end of the ice.
As Stamkos neared the goal, he fired a wrist shot on target. The 6-foot-7 Bishop knocked the puck away with his blocker pad.
The sequence was innocuous enough, the kind that happens hundreds of times during a typical practice session.
The fact the play involved two of the Lightning’s biggest stars whose health was a topic entering training camp made it noteworthy.
After spending the first day of training camp Thursday performing largely administrative duties like taking pictures, filling out paperwork and interviewing with the media, Friday was the first day the Lightning assembled on the ice, signaling the true start to the 2014-15 season.
The biggest takeaway from day one? Both Stamkos and Bishop were full participants and showed no noticeable signs of the injuries that affected them during the 2013-14 season.
“It’s fun to get your competitive juices going again and going against the guys full speed,” said Bishop, who had offseason surgery on his wrist. “So, that was fun. It felt good out there. I didn’t get tired. I felt like I was in pretty good shape, so I was happy about that.”
Bishop initially injured his wrist in January and, after missing about a week of the season, returned sporting a cast-like protective covering for support. Bishop said there was an adjustment period learning to play with the extra protection on his wrist last season which took a couple weeks. Learning to play without it during informal workouts leading into training camp also required some getting used to.
“I’ve been practicing without it all summer...It felt pretty good today,” he said. “I’ve just got to get a little stronger.”
Stamkos, too, appeared to be unaffected by the broken tibia that robbed him of 45 games during the 2013-14 regular season. During offseason informal workouts, Stamkos said it might take up to a year – the injury occurred in November -- for his leg to feel 100%.
Friday, the Lightning captain looked like his typical, all-star self.
“I thought we had a great pace out there for the first day,” Stamkos said. “That’s always good to see.”
For portions of the practice, which was broken down into three sessions for three separate groups of players, Stamkos skated with a line consisting of Ryan Callahan and Ondrej Palat on his wings and Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman in defense.
But, according to Stamkos, those early pairings mean little.
“It was kind of the theme of our [team] meeting (Thursday) was these groups really don’t mean much,” he said. “For lines, I think everyone’s kind of had the couple line combinations that guys played with each other last year that are going to be comfortable with each other. So, today with (Callahan) and (Palat), I played with those guys a bunch last year. If we start the year like that, who knows?”
The Lightning resume practice Saturday at Amalie Arena. The practice is closed to the public but the team's practice starting at 9 a.m. Sunday at Brandon Ice Sports Forum is open to the public.
The team’s first preseason game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Amalie Arena against the Nashville Predators.