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Finally, the day has arrived. Hockey is back and it’s time to start a new chapter in the history of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Insider will once again be there to document what’s going on both on and off the ice this season as the Lightning lace ‘em up and head into battle. I’ll be with the team throughout training camp – Prague included – and I’ll be with the Bolts every step of the way trying to provide some insight for Lightning fans.
Back to today. The players filed in early this morning after a meeting at the camp hotel for the usual physicals/photos/fitness testing. There were a lot of new faces for everyone to get used as the players shuffled through the mandatory photo stations – NHL headshots, scoreboard headshots and Sun Sports headshots. After physicals, photos and fitness testing Team White hit the ice first for a quick workout, followed by Team Black an hour later.
Not much can be determined from a bunch of guys working out the legs and skating through some basic drills, but head coach Barry Melrose and his staff obviously enjoyed finally getting on the ice with the players.
“I was just remembering how much I love it,” Melrose said in his post-practice press conference. “That’s the main thing I felt out there today.”
Melrose also commented that he was very pleased with the overall condition of the players, and that defense and goaltending were going to be areas of focus during the preseason.
“We’ve got to cut our goals against down,” Melrose said. “We do that alone and we make the playoffs.
“The guys were sharp and worked extremely hard. Today I just wanted to see their skill level, see what I'm dealing with. Everyone showed up in great shape, some in exceptional shape. I’m not disappointed with anyone as far as conditioning.”
Other random notes from the day:
• Center Jeff Halpern, sidelined following major knee surgery, has already begun skating but I don’t have any update to his planned return date of December.
• All of the motivational signs from the past have been removed from the locker room, and one large new one dominates the top of the wall near the ceiling in the main room – “Tough times don't build character... They reveal it”
• Vinny Lecavalier’s slapshot has not been hampered by his off-season shoulder surgery. Fans should be happy to hear he was firing lasers on the ice.
• Not present today were Chris Lawrence and Ty Wishart, who are still participating in the Traverse City prospect tournament.
• Anyone who’s already hit 40 and isn’t happy with the shape they’re in should stay away from Gary Roberts – he’s not going to make you feel any better about yourself. The guy’s still a physical specimen.
• The expanded and remodeled workout room is fantastic, and the players certainly seemed to enjoy the extra space, new hot tubs, etc.
That’s about it today – I’ll try to keep a better eye on the ice tomorrow when the real practices get going.