Things are getting started
It's 17 days until the start of Lightning training camp but a few players have been out playing pickup games for the past week or so at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. They usually start at 10 a.m. and go for about an hour.
New alternate captain Marty St. Louis is there along with goalies Marc Denis and Johan Holmqvist, defensemen Filip Kuba and Dan Boyle and forwards Vinny Prospal, Brad Richards, Chris Gratton and Jan Hlavac. Also skating are former Lightning forward Chris Dingman and Nolan Pratt, still without a team.
You're not going to see anything thrilling during these games. It's pretty tame as the guys pretty much just pass the puck around and take half-hearted shots. The real fun was after the games when the players set up the nets in the same place as they will be when camp starts and they start skating in circles around the nets.
Even more fun is seeing them in the locker room after the skates. Dan Boyle, clearly winded, slumped down in his seat and said, "It doesn't matter how much you work out.''
For the record, everyone who skated Tuesday looks like they took the summer seriously. Boyle, especially, has put on some muscle, and Denis and Holmqvist both look as if they added muscle at the expense of fat.
And speaking of Denis, let's give the guy credit for his efforts at Ice Fest as he stayed well past his alloted autograph time to accommodate those in line.
Okay, so this isn't the most thrilling stuff. But what do you expect in August?
Here's something to wet your appetite; a good idea of what to expect from early training camp lines:
That last one is the most intriguing because it leaves out Ryan Craig. Craig certainly wil get his chance and early lines don't mean a heck of a lot. But if it does shake out this way, it might be a wakeup call for Craig that he will have to earn his place after a weak second half of last season and with questions about his right knee. It also seems to mean Craig MacDonald, 29, who at 6-1, 202 pounds has eight goals, 22 points and 75 PIM in 160 NHL games, will be given every chance to make the team.
Competition always is good.