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Camp off to a good start; prospects lose again



For me, the best thing about the first day of camp was the way Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi showed up. Roberts, at 42, is the second oldest player under contract in the league. Recchi, at 40, is the fourth oldest. So what happens? They lead their respective groups in sprints held after an hour-long practice at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The pair are my main story for tomorrow. We'll find out about their workout routines and their mindsets as two of the league's most accomplished, and oldest, players, so I'll just leave you with these bits and pieces:

Strength coach Kevin Ziegler said both should be "at the top" of the team when Tuesday's off-ice fitness tests are evaluated. Roberts said, "No matter if you're 20 or 40, you still have to earn your spot." Said Recchi: "We've got to lead by example. We have to be the hardest workers. That's very important for us. We have a lot of guys here. We have to lead the right way. We have to show them."

Sounds a lot like Dave Andreychuk when he was showing the way for what was then a young and inexperienced team. Like Andreychuk, it seems Roberts, with 434 goals and in his 21st season, and Recchi, with 522 goals and in his 22nd, will be able to contribute in a third- or fourth-line capacity. What they will do in the locker room is invaluable.

As Steven Stamkos said: "They're 40-plus years old and still working as hard as anyone in the gym. ... It's definitely two guys you want to follow in their footsteps."

Other stuff from camp: Coach Barry Melrose said neither center Vinny Lecavalier nor defenseman Paul Ranger will scrimmage this week. Both are rehabbing right shoulder surgeries. ... While Melrose has said he would like the team to be picked by Sept. 25, when the team leaves for Europe after an exhibition in New York against the Rangers, hockey ops chief Brian Lawton did not rule out going to Europe with more than the allotted 24 players, one more than the usual NHL roster, and making final cuts there. ... Lawton said there was talk of sending Stamkos to the still-going prospects tournament in Traverse City., Mich. Had he gone, Stamkos might not have gotten to camp until Friday, and "that sealed the deal," Lawton said.

The team actually practiced Tuesday, quite a change from the on-ice testing done the first two days of camp under former coach John Tortorella. But that didn't stop Melrose from putting the defense through a grueling minutes-long drill in which players started, stopped, spun and sprinted around the center ice circle. The players' distorted faces told you how much pain they were in. "In the end," defenseman Andrej Meszaros said, "your legs feel like stone."

Melrose was a gentle task-master during practice. He encouraged players with stuff like, "Don't slow down, don't slow down." He was complimentary after practice, saying all the players showed up in at least "good" shape. Asked how he liked being back on the ice, he said, "I remembered how much I loved it."

Vinny Lecavalier said the ice at the St. Pete Times Forum was mushy and felt like he was skating in "sand." But he said he still likes the idea of camp at the Times Forum.

As for the prospects, they lost again, 5-3 to the Rangers and are now 0-3 overall and 1-for-24 on the power play. Mitch Fadden, Kyle De Coste and Chris Lawrence scored. Torre Jung made 25 saves.

Practice at 10 a.m. on Wednesday is free and open to the public. Park in the west VIP lot.         

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]


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