Halpern, Malone ready to return
Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said center Jeff Halpern likely will play Thursday at home against the Avalanche. It will be Halpern's first game action since May when he injured his right knee playing for the United States in the World Championship. The debate was whether Halpern would play a game first for AHL Norfolk. Tocchet said he would rather Halpern jump right in to the NHL game, and when Halpern said he would do whatever the team wanted, the decision was made to play him Thursday.
Tocchet said left wing Ryan Malone (upper body) also is ready to return. That is a good sign for the Lightning's puck hunting ability that Tocchet continued to question on Monday. Tocchet said the team's "tenacity on the puck" must improve.
"Maybe it's a technique thing," Tocchet said. "I hope it's not a courage thing."
The Lightning had a mini training camp Monday. It worked in split squads from 10 a.m. to noon and then at 4 p.m. for an hour on special teams. Tocchet said the message was one of repetition (there hasn't been much with all the game), getting players on the same page and, amazingly, conditioning. It isn't hard to figure out why after Saturday's awful 2-0 loss to the Senators. As Tocchet said:
"I'm probably more peeved than any game ever was that Ottawa game. It was ridiculous to have that effort. It was all set up for us to play well, and we did not. To me, you have not smart hockey players or guys who don't care. It's as blunt as it gets."
"You're caught between a rock and a hard place because you want to make sure these guys get rest. I would have loved to give a couple guys a day off, two days off because they're playing a lot of minutes. Unfortunately, they have to suffer because of bad play by other players."
As for the team's conditioning, Tocchet did not use former coach Barry Melrose's name, but said, "We still have some guys who aren't up to pace, and that starts in September and October. By this time you should go through a 40-minute practice and not breathe heavy. We have guys breathing hard."
They continue on Tuesday.