The Lightning hit the ice as a team at 11 a.m. this morning, the first time since Monday, for their second-to-last practice before Saturday’s opener in Atlanta. Everything is status quo on the line-up front. Rick Tocchet hasn’t tipped his hand on the exact line-up for Saturday yet, but I would expect it will be similar to the one that hit the ice against the Thrashers last Sunday in the preseason finale.
Some teams might not enjoy having almost an entire week between games leading up to the season opener, but Rick Tocchet sees it as a positive. “We needed the time to settle things down a bit after the (preseason) trip,” he said. It makes sense, considering the Lightning were still carrying in the neighborhood of 40 players when they got to Norfolk, that Tocchet finds the time with the final opening day roster worthwhile. He admitted during the road trip that it was hard to concentrate on teaching systems with two different squads on the trip. Tocchet has taken this week to get the final plan in place with both on-ice sessions and a 45-minute video meeting yesterday.
Tocchet also said today that he likes the way the roster has filled out up front. He specifically said that he likes the way Drew Miller fits with Jeff Halpern. Rookie James Wright has also been on that line during the preseason. Tocchet was also asked if he was concerned that Alex Tanguay didn’t score a goal in the preseason and the coach openly admitted that he thought Tanguay was “over-passing” to Vinny Lecavalier. Tocchet did say that he doesn’t think it will be a problem and he isn’t concerned about Tanguay’s production once the puck drops for real. The Lightning bench boss also said the team needs to play a “nastier game”. Its hard to say whether things were different because it was preseason, but the Lightning did start to look a little scrappier toward the end of the trip. Hopefully that will carry over into the regular season.
At the end of his session with the media today, Tocchet said it was time to stop talking about being successful this season and make it a reality. Tocchet and the rest of the team will get their first chance Saturday at Philips Arena.