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Translation: Ondrej Palat discusses the off-season and fellow Czech Andrej Sustr

...And the joy of playing with an old friend.

Reuters / Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, Czech journalist Josef Cafourek of NHL.com/CS talked to Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ondrej Palat for his weekly column. If you use this translated text in any way, please credit Josef Cafourek of NHL.com/CS and Igor Nikonov (@nikonov_igor) of Raw Charge.

Josef Cafourek: The Tampa Bay Lightning are the best team in the NHL. What’s changed since last season when you didn’t make the playoffs?

Ondrej Palat: We’ve had a longer summer and after two seasons with deep playoff runs, it was hard not to notice that. We’ve got our bodies in good shape. Health problems were healed, which was an issue for the majority of our team. The management did a great job; experienced players like Chris Kunitz and Dan Girardi joined us and fit perfectly in with the team. We have new young players who play well too. Everyone here plays and it works.

Cafourek: Have you learned anything from last season when you didn’t manage to catch up to your opponents because of bad start? Even if you didn’t play bad at the end of the regular season…

Palat: Sure. It was a big learning experience. We probably thought we will make the playoffs automatically, after the seasons when we played at the Stanley Cup and the Eastern Conference Finals. But it didn’t happen and now we know how much work it takes. We should show a balanced game during the whole regular season.

Cafourek: Kucherov plays great on the first line and you were put together with your former center Tyler Johnson, who has a good chemistry with you. Is it a pleasure for you to play together again?

Palat: Sure, it’s great. We’ve known each other for a long time, and have played a lot of games together. We have been playing together with Brayden Point recently and I think our line plays well.

Cafourek: Point is taking a big step forward in his second season in the NHL. Does it help you?

Palat: We played together last season and he already played well. Current results only show that he’s becoming an excellent hockey player. He is a smart player with good vision and great speed, so we understand each other. Point also plays well on defense, he is responsible and can keep the puck. He has a lot of hockey talent.

Josef Cafourek: Young defencemen Mikhail Sergachev, Jake Dotchin, and Slater Koekkoek were also added to the roster. What is the secret to Tampa bringing in new young players every year who become essential for the team?

Palat: I think it is thanks to our excellent scouts who recommend them before the draft, we have quality picks. The coaching stuff works well with them on the farm [AHL], they’re getting better out there and learning how to play in the NHL. So when they come to the [NHL] team, it’s not a big change for them. And also thanks to Jon Cooper who knows how to treat young players and pay attention to them. I’ve also gone through it, and it was a good experience and support for me.

Josef Cafourek: Andrej Sustr is on the edge of the roster because of the quantity of good defencemen. What’s your opinion on his situation?

Palat: It’s very hard for him. There are a lot of defencemen. But when Šustřík [Nickname for Sustr!] gets a chance, he always plays well. I hope he will fight for his place in the team and will play more.