09/19/17 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — When Hall of Famer Phil Esposito first saw Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov, he joked that the 6-foot-8 defenseman could reach the Amalie Arena ceiling.
But Esposito, 75, also shared some high praise, saying Sosunov reminded him of a young Zdeno Chara, the 6-foot-9 Bruins captain.
Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness, who coached Chara as an Islanders rookie, said Sosunov is a better skater than Chara was at that time. ...
Just three months ago, defenseman Cal Foote was getting his name called in the first round of the NHL Draft.
And now Foote, 18, is preparing for another milestone, his first NHL exhibition tonight. The Lightning hosts Carolina at 7:30 p.m.
"Kind of a dream my whole life, my whole childhood," Foote said. "So it’s going to be a fun moment, that’s for sure."...
When Hall of Famer Phil Esposito first saw Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov, he joked he thought the 6-foot-8 Russian would hit the ceiling at Amalie Arena.
But Esposito also felt Sosunov reminded him of a young Zdeno Chara, the long-time Bruins defenseman.
Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness, who coached Chara with the Islanders at the beginning of his career, could see that....
09/18/17 Lightning Strikes
BRANDON — This time last year, it was Slater Koekkoek's job to lose.
Koekkoek, 23, a first-round pick in 2012, was coming off an impressive performance in the run to the Eastern Conference final. But while the smooth-skating defenseman did make his first opening night roster — "a dream come true" — it didn't last long. Koekkoek was a healthy scratch the first week, then sent to AHL Syracuse, where he would spend the second half of the season....
This time last year, it was Slater Koekkoek's job to lose.
Koekkoek, 23, the former Lightning first-round pick, was coming off an impressive performance in the run to the Eastern Conference Final. The smooth-skating defenseman did make his first opening night roster - "a dream come true" - but it didn't last long. After a so-so camp, Koekkoek was scratched the first week, then sent to AHL Syracuse, where he spent the second half of the season....
Lightning veteran defenseman Anton Stralman did not participate in team practice for the third straight day.
But at least Stralman was back on the ice.
Stralman lightly skated and stickhandled on his own Sunday in a red non-contact jersey while his group practiced on the other sheet of ice at the Ice Sports Forum. Stralman had not skated in the first two days of practice, with the team calling him day-to-day. The Lightning hasn't' disclosed what ails the Swede....
09/16/17 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — When the Lightning's rookie tournament charter to Nashville last weekend became a Hurricane Irma evacuation flight, it made for a surreal scene.
Owner Jeff Vinik invited players and staff members to get their families out of harm's way. And family apparently included animals. There were three cats and seven dogs on the Boeing 737, with captain Steven Stamkos' 100-pound Swiss Mountain Dog, Trigger, curled into a coach seat before takeoff. ...
Many Lightning fans got their first up-close look at touted defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev during Saturday's Fan Fest at Amalie Arena.
There are likely some fans that still lament losing dynamic wing Jonathan Drouin, dealt to Montreal for Sergachev in late June.
But Lightning founder Phil Esposito reassured fans they're going to end up liking this trade on Tampa Bay's side.
"Drouin is a fabulous player," Esposito said Saturday in a Q&A in front of fans between practice at Amalie Arena. "Personally I didn't think he wanted to be here. I saw it in his eyes, the way he played. I thought (GM Steve Yzerman) made the right move. (Drouin) is going to love being in Montreal, that's where he's from. But he has no idea the pressure that's going to be on him if he doesn't produce. He has no idea....
Lightning journal: Jeff Vinik feels 'pretty good' about getting outdoor game in Tampa Bay (w/ video)09/16/17 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — Lightning owner Jeff Vinik told commissioner Gary Bettman the first time they met that every time they saw each other, he would ask about Tampa hosting an All-Star Game.
It worked. This season's game is at Amalie Arena in January. So now Vinik's focus is on bringing an outdoor game to the area, something that would likely involve Raymond James Stadium. And Vinik said he likes the Lightning's chances....
Lightning owner Jeff Vinik told NHL commissioner Gary Bettman the first time they met that every time they saw each other, he'd ask about Tampa hosting an All-Star Game.
It worked, with Tampa hosting the 2018 All-Star Game in January at Amalie Arena. So now Vinik's focus is on bringing an outdoor hockey game to the area, which would likely involve Raymond James Stadium.
And Vinik said he likes their chances....
09/15/17 Lightning Strikes
BRANDON — When Steven Stamkos saw the training camp practice groups Thursday, he hoped it meant he would be reunited on a line with Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov.
Stamkos got his wish Friday on the Lightning's first full day of practice at the Ice Sports Forum.
The trio felt the same chemistry that made them one of the hottest lines in hockey early last season. Stamkos (nine goals, 11 assists) and Kucherov (eight goals, 13 assists) were among the league's top scorers through 17 games until Stamkos hurt his right knee Nov. 15 in Detroit and missed the rest of the season....
When Lightning captain Steven Stamkos saw the training practice groups Thursday, he hoped it meant he'd get reunited on a line with Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov.
And Stamkos, 27, got his wish on Friday's first full day of practice at the Ice Sports Forum.
The trio felt the same chemistry that made them one of the hottest lines in hockey in the beginning of last seasos. Stamkos (nine goals, 11 assists) and Kucherov (eight goals, 13 assists) were among the league's top scorers through 17 games until Stamkos got hurt Nov. 15 in Detroit....
09/14/17 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA —There have been only rave reviews for how Lightning captain Steven Stamkos has looked — and felt — so far.
"He's walking around like a man on a mission," coach Jon Cooper said.
But a truer evaluation will come starting with Friday's first full team practice at Brandon's Ice Sports Forum, not to mention Tuesday's exhibition opener against the Hurricanes at Amalie Arena. Stamkos, 27, won't have any restrictions, but he hasn't played since mid-November surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee. The four-time All-Star said he wouldn't mind seeing more preseason action if his knee responds well....
You could sense a determined, motivated group of Lightning players as they reported Thursday for the start of training camp.
The long summer - a result of missing the playoffs for the first time in four years - gave them a lot to think about.
And they vowed that it won't happen again....
09/13/17 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev knows there will be plenty of eyes on him during training camp, which opens Thursday at Amalie Arena.
Sergachev, 19, the touted prospect acquired from Montreal in the Jonathan Drouin trade, will be given every chance to make the Lightning roster.
And Sergachev — who dropped 10 pounds this summer in an effort to be quicker — is determined to start the season in the NHL. Otherwise, he goes back to juniors another year....