Steven Stamkos and the Lightning jump into a shortened 20th Anniversary season.
NHL training camps are shorter than normal this season, which leads to a great learning curve for newly acquired Tampa Bay Lightning players. With only a week-long training camp, the Bolts will need to address some big questions with minimal time to find the answer.
After holding their first official team workout Jan. 13, coach Guy Boucher is taking his team on a nearly three-hour trip to Estero, Florida for practice. That trip will be crucial for the Lightning in answering these five biggest questions about training camp.
Defensemen, Marc-Andre Bergeron, wait for their partner and offensive lines work to get set.
One of the biggest things about the short prep time is chemistry. The Lightning certainly won’t be the only team struggling to find chemistry in the training camp. All 30 NHL teams will go through this to a certain extent.
Boucher knows the importance of chemistry and understands the uphill battle his team faces with his unorthodox system. He mentioned the strain of the preseason to Mark Didtler of the Associated Press.
''I'm not going to kid myself. It takes three weeks to a month to really put things on the ice ... a system and really execute it consistently, and even then we usually start the year all over the place like everybody else,'' Boucher said (via the Associated Press). ''These guys are going to be animals coming out of a cage. They've been wanting this for a long time. The main focus this week is game shape and chemistry.''
Cory Conacher and the rest of his AHL teammates aim to boost Tampa's depth.
The Lightning invited 31 players to training camp (17 forwards, 12 defensemen and two goaltenders).
Obviously, some of the spots are already filled. The Lightning return veterans like Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Ryan Malone and Teddy Purcell, to name a few.
Newcomers Benoit Pouliot and B.J. Crombeen will be fighting for roster spots with American Hockey League stars Cory Conacher, Tyler Johnson and Pierre-Cedric Labrie.
On defense, Matt Carle, Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman lead the pack, but the Syracuse Crunch’s Matt Taormina, Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas will be fighting for late-pair spots.
Sami Salo has been plagued by injury in recent years. He joins a Tampa team that was bitten by the injury bug in 2012.
One of the biggest issues with a shortened preseason—and no preseason games—is injury. The Lightning will have to push themselves to get into some semblance of game shape, but that could cost the team injuries.
That’s not good news to a team that was plagued by injury last season. Superstar Steven Stamkos voiced his concern to Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times:
"You've got to try to be careful and maintain your body through the next week. Usually in camp you have your fitness-testing day. You have a couple of conditioning days to get your legs back, but we don't have time to do that."
Here is the list Cristodero compiled of injuries to watch:
- Anders Lindback (knee)
- Marc-Andre Bergeron (back)
- Dana Tyrell (knee)
- Sami Salo (concussion)
- Mathieu Garon (groin)
Anders Lindback doesn't have a lot of NHL experience, but a training camp against some of the best scorers in hockey should help.
Scrutiny surrounds the Lightning in goal. After taking a puck to the knee this offseason in Finland, Anders Lindback joins the Lightning with questions swirling around his ability to be a No. 1 goaltender.
He only has 38 games of NHL experience, but the Lightning are hoping he is the answer to their goaltending woes.
Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune caught up with the largest goaltender in franchise history (6’6”).
"That's what I've worked hard for, that was my goal all the time," Lindback said (via TBO.com) "It was a tough situation. Pekka Rinne was playing awesome. He wanted to play every game. It was tough for me to get games. But I learned a lot. I'm really excited to get the chance to prove myself. I don't really care that much about what people say or think, because I think the most pressure I get is from myself, because I want to prove myself so badly."
2011 was a great season for Tampa Bay. Could this be another magical run? It starts in training camp.
In 2011, the Lightning started a magical run when they acquired a new goaltender in Dwayne Roloson. Roloson finished out the final 43 regular season games and led the Bolts to within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Tampa Bay is in a very similar situation this year, with a new goaltender and a 48-game season. Do the Bolts have what it takes to make a push like they did in 2011?
Coach Guy Boucher stressed consistency with Gary Shelton of the Tampa Bay Times.
"You can have a fast start and later on have some long bad stretches. I don't want a fast start as much as I want steadiness. Don't lose five in a row. For me, this isn't a threat. It's an opportunity and a challenge,” Boucher said (via Tampabay.com).
If the Lightning can be consistent, could they take advantage of the short season? With all the veterans in the locker room to help guide the club, this could be a special opportunity for the Bolts.
Stressing the similarities to this year’s group could play a significant part in rekindling that magic from 2011.