Three things we’ve learned during Lightning training camp

DIRK SHADD   |   TimesTampa Bay Lightning goaltender Louis Domingue (70) blocks a shot by Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20) during the third period in Game 1 in the Eastern Conference Final Friday, May 11, 2018 in Tampa. Tampa Bay Lightning lost 4-2.
DIRK SHADD | TimesTampa Bay Lightning goaltender Louis Domingue (70) blocks a shot by Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20) during the third period in Game 1 in the Eastern Conference Final Friday, May 11, 2018 in Tampa. Tampa Bay Lightning lost 4-2.
Published September 29 2018

We are now less than a week away from the Lightning regular-season opener. Saturday night the Lightning opens the 2018-19 season against the Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena.

It concluded its preseason schedule Saturday night and now is expected to have four practices until the regular-season's opening faceoff.

But before looking ahead, let's look back.

Here are three things we've learned in the past few days.

The captain feels good

"I'm ready for the season,'' Steven Stamkos said. "But we've got the week, so we might as well work on some things.''

But one thing Stamkos won't have to work on is rehabilitating some sort of injury. Just think back to some of the issues (and major questions) he has had coming into recent seasons. He had a badly broken leg, a serious knee injury and a life-threatening blood clot. All brought his hockey future into question and hampered his offseason activities.

"For me, especially, it's important to feel good mentally and physically going into the season,'' Stamkos said. "It's definitely refreshing that way.''

Stamkos looks to be in terrific shape and says it has been awhile since he felt this good going into a season.

The kids are all right

The Lightning has more good players than spots available. Three young players in particular are making a serious run at making the team: forwards Mathieu Joseph and Alex Volkov, and defenseman Erik Cernak. You might even throw in forward Danick Martel.

Whether any of them makes the team to start the season really isn't the point. In fact, if you're a prospect, maybe it's better to play major minutes on one of the top two lines at AHL Syracuse than play just a few shifts a game on the fourth line in Tampa Bay.

The good news is the Lightning has promising prospects who will make an impact at some point this season. Invariably the Lightning will suffer some injuries, and when that happens, Joseph, Volkov, Cernak and Martel are likely to play with the big club.

If you're looking for a breakout star, perhaps the next Brayden Point, the smart money is on Joseph. Then again, calling someone the next Point seems unfair. Still, Joseph looks like a future star.

The Lightning is set in goal

Of course it is with 2017-18 Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy. No, what we're talking about here is Louis Domingue, who has proven himself a reliable backup. Domingue has had a solid camp.

"He has played really well in the couple games that he's been able to play,'' coach Jon Cooper said. "His puck-handling ability has been exceptional.''

Domingue has worked out really well, and Steve Yzerman, the now-former Lightning GM, is to thank for that. In what seemed like an insignificant deal just to add some depth in goal, Yzerman traded for Domingue in November. But when backup goalie Peter Budaj struggled and then got hurt, Domingue, who was the third goalie in Arizona, became a key piece though he had the difficult task of playing sparingly behind a workhorse such as Vasilevskiy.

Domingue started only 11 games with Tampa Bay, but he went 7-3-1. He also knows he will be an important piece this season but is taking nothing for granted.

"I'm not satisfied,'' Domingue said. "I have something to prove every day. It has been like that since I've been in the league. I've got to prove myself to the guys in the room. I've got to prove myself to management. I've got prove myself to my goalie partner. It's part of the job.''

He's doing that job well.

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