We’re back, folks. After 142 days of no hockey and plenty of speculation as to whether or not we’d ever see the 2019-2020 season resume, we have the beginning of the return: training camps. The Tampa Bay Lightning took to the ice today in two sessions of fourteen skaters and two goaltenders to kick off their Return to Play Phase III training camp. Here’s what I took note of on day one.
Coaches and players didn’t wear facemasks while on the ice, but training and medical staff did. Once the players and coaches left the ice they donned facemasks.
The Lightning have 33 players listed for training camp, split into two groups. Today, only 32 were full participants.
Today, the groups were as follows (I wouldn’t read too much into the pairings/line combos at this time):
The coaching staff didn’t make it an easy skate today with drills focusing on skating, passing, retrievals, transitioning, and positioning. There were numerous times when assistant coach Derek Lalonde was stopping drills and explaining finer details to help the players execute more effectively. Additionally, there was a TV behind the glass near the ice that Lalonde and Todd Richards used to break down forechecking and penalty killing strategies. That said, the mood of practice was light and smiles were everywhere. Both sessions ended with some 3-on-3 scrimmaging to lighten things up.
Stamkos Skates Alone
On Saturday, Lightning General Manager Julien BriseBois revealed that captain Steven Stamkos suffered a lower body injury during Phase 2 and would not be a full participant at the start of training camp. Between the first and second groups of players Stamkos took the ice alongside trainer Mikey Poirier. He started with a few conditioning laps, followed up by some footwork drills. He then transitioned to his spot above the left faceoff circle where Poirier fed him a few passes that saw Stamkos settle the puck and then fire them on net. Afterwards, the captain did a figure eight cone drill followed by a simple board drill. He finished with some one-timer practice before leaving the ice. In total, Stamkos was on the ice for roughly 30-40 minutes.
Cooper’s Mentality In Camp
When asked what he wanted on the first day of camp, coach Jon Cooper responded, “I’m not sure what I wanted it to be to be honest. But I know how I wanted to feel when I left, and I wanted to feel great and I did. That’s a positive sign”.
I followed up by asking him what kind of mentality he would like to impart onto his team as training camp progresses. Cooper answered:
“There’s no question that our approach will be a little different than teams five through 12. We’ll have a little bit more time to prepare. I think you can experiment a little because we have our exhibition game and those four round robin games, but I would anticipate by the time you start getting into those round robin games that it’ll get dialed up with every game that these teams play. I don’t think there’s anyway you can replicate a playoff series. The teams playing their best of five, that’s a do-or-die, whereas we’re not quite in those situations, but we’re gonna have to be in a situation where we can match the intensity because we’ll be playing a team that will be a bit more weathered in those situations”.
It felt exhilarating to be watching NHL players do their thing again after so many months of absolutely nothing happening. I wouldn’t read into much of these practices for the first two to three days. Both the coaching staff and players are just trying to get back into the groove of things. Once day four or five comes around I feel as though the intensity of the skates will increase and we’ll get to see a bit more. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.
I plan to be at camp every day, so, keep an eye out for these in the late afternoon everyday.