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Weekend Observations of Lightning Training Camp

Stamkos is inching his way closer to a return.

Vegas Golden Knights v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

It was an eventful weekend for the Tampa Bay Lightning as the tempo of practices was increased while the coaching staff’s focus shifted from basic drills to special teams work (both power-play and penalty kill), breakout drills, retrieval drills, transition drills, and goalie puck drills. Additionally, captain Steven Stamkos inched his way back toward fully integrating himself into practice.

Injury Update

After attending three consecutive days of camp to start the week, forward Cedric Paquette missed his third consecutive day on Sunday. He was injured from a shot on Wednesday and remains labelled as “unable to practice”. However, he did skate with the Black Aces on Sunday morning, so, hopefully he will be able to return to the main group soon.

Aside from that, all of the regulars were accounted for this weekend. The Black Aces skated at 8:45 am on both days, so, they were not recorded or seen by any members of the media.

Here were the players who practiced on Saturday:

Steven Stamkos (limited to special teams only), Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Alex Killorn, Blake Coleman, Anthony Cirelli, Yanni Gourde, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Barclay Goodrow, Carter Verhaeghe, Pat Maroon, Mitchell Stephens, Victor Hedman, Jan Rutta, Mikhail Sergachev, Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak, Zach Bogosian, Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Curtis McElhinney.

Here were the players who practiced on Sunday:

Stamkos (limited to special teams only), Kucherov, Point, Killorn, Coleman, Cirelli, Gourde, Palat, Johnson, Goodrow, Verhaeghe, Maroon, Alex Volkov, Mathieu Joseph, Hedman, Rutta, Sergachev, Shattenkirk, McDonagh, Cernak, Bogosian, Coburn, Schenn, Vasilevskiy, and McElhinney.

Drills, Drills, and more Drills

Instead of inundating you all with the countless drill videos that are stored in my phone, I’ll simply highlight my favorite ones of the weekend.

This weekend saw a major focus be put on special teams, and the Lightning wasted little time getting to work on it Saturday morning. Stamkos was a full participant in the first session on Saturday, and did the same on Sunday. He took up his usual spot in the left circle. The power-play units remained unchanged:

PP1:
Stamkos-Point-Kucherov-Killorn-Hedman

PP2:
Palat-Gourde-Johnson-Maroon-Sergachev

Stamkos did not practice after the special teams session on either day. “The plan is to get him in as soon as we can, but it’s when he’s ready,” said Cooper about the process of integrating Stamkos into practice fully during camp, “we’ve got off days [and] on ice days set for him as they come along. So, next week we’ll have to see.”

Conversely, the penalty killing unit did see some shuffling of players as the weekend progressed.

Tactically, neither special teams unit did anything new. The power-play structure remained the same with puck movement being quarterbacked by Kucherov/Hedman on the first unit and Sergachev on the second. The penalty kill looked as solid as ever with passing lanes being closed off, keeping the front of the net clear, and staying disciplined in their lanes. However, I felt that both special teams units were just getting back into the groove of things, and will see a bit more of a nuanced alteration once the second week of camp hits.

This weekend was the first time the team started working on special teams in general. Cooper mentioned earlier in the week that they wanted to address the issues that both units had during the season in this camp. It’s likely that this weekend was just an introduction to what they plan to do with those units as camp progresses.

This drill was one of my favorites of the weekend as we saw the Lightning work through a strong side defensive retrieval drill—which was yelled out as a weak side, but the players went through the process like it was on the strong side, which I found humorous (they also did forward retrieval, strong side retrieval, goalie retrieval). It’s a good way for folks to see how a part of their system is supposed to work without any interference, and how much they stress quick transitions with the puck. This has been an emphasis in every drill in some way, quickness with and without the puck, skating, and transitioning.

Last, but certainly not least, the Lightning had some in-close one on ones to close out practice on Sunday. Best to click to tweet above to see all of the ones I recorded. Unfortunately, I was only able to record one side of the ice decently, but the above tweet contains the following matchups:

Coleman vs. Schenn
Johnson vs. Coburn
Joseph vs. Goodrow
Maroon vs. Volkov
Gourde vs. Sergachev
Coleman vs. Bogosian

Coming Up

Next up, the Lightning will have their streamed White vs Blue scrimmage on Monday at 4:00 p.m. “More of it is about getting reps,” said Cooper when asked what he expects out of the first scrimmage, “we’ve had quite a few practices now and I think the guys just want a little bit more [of] a game like experience. So we’re gonna try and replicate that as much as possible.”

Additionally, Cooper confirmed that everyone in camp, including the Black Aces, will be skating in tomorrow’s scrimmage. “Everyone that’s been in our camp is going [Monday],” Cooper stated, “like I said, we’re gonna try and replicate a game. We’re probably not gonna go twenty minute periods, but as much as possible.”

I expect practice to see an uptick in intensity, even more than this weekend, after the first scrimmage ends. This coming week will be focused on getting things really situated as the Lightning prepare for their exhibition and round robin games. Luckily, those games are really nothing more than “tune-ups’ for Tampa Bay, however, seeding is still important and the more prepared they are heading into them the better off they’ll do. We’ll see though, it is still too early to reliably predict anything; still exciting as we inch closer back to NHL hockey fully returning.