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Picking Stamkos' linemates won't be an "open audition"

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said players were told not to read too much into what groups they practiced with - or lines they were on - during training camp.

But the fact Stamkos centered a line with Ondrej Palat and veteran Ryan Callahan during Friday's first practice wasn't a random selection. The trio played together a little bit last season, and coach Jon Cooper said Stamkos will be paired with several familiar faces during camp before deciding the top line.

"I don't think it's an open audition," Cooper said. "We've got a group that has some success with him last year, and why wouldn't we go back to that again? At least at the start of the year."

After Marty St. Louis was traded last season, and Stamkos returned from his right leg surgery, he played primarily with Palat and C Tyler Johnson, the two Calder Trophy finalists, including in the playoffs. But Stamkos also saw time with C Alex Killorn.

Stamkos said game situations will give him a better feel, but know what he likes in linemates. …

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Cooper: There's "no rush" with Jonathan Drouin

Lightning coach Jon Cooper can see a pronounced difference in touted  prospect RW Jonathan Drouin from the beginning of last year’s camp to now.

“He’s leaner, he’s quicker, he’s faster, he seems more mature out on the ice,” Cooper said.

While Drouin, 19, is likely to make the team - as opposed to getting sent back to juniors - Cooper tried to temper the expectations on the third overall pick from 2013.

"He's an investment for us," Cooper said. "This isn't just, 'Well, he was a high draft pick, let's throw  him into the lineup and he's going to come in here and be our MVP.' That's not how he should be looked at by everybody. He's a 19-year old junior hockey player that's trying to work his way into the National Hockey League. We want him to not only perform this year, but 10-15 years down the road. For me, there's no rush on Jonathan Drouin. Let's see where he fits in, if he makes the team. We're very confident in his abilities." …

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Bishop says he won't be held back in camp

Ben Bishop doesn't expect to be limited during camp.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Ben Bishop doesn't expect to be limited during camp.

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop was pretty happy with how he performed in throwing the ceremonial first pitch at Wednesday's Rays-Yankees game.

"I don't know if my velocity was up to speed," he joked. "But my location was pretty good."

More importantly, Bishop is feeling good physically heading into Friday's first full practice at Amalie Arena. Bishop, who underwent right wrist surgery in April, said he's not quite 100-percent yet, but he's "getting there" and doesn't expect to be limited during camp.

"The range of motion, everything is good," Bishop said. "Strength still needs to get a little stronger, but I'm able to practice with the guys, that's good. By the season starts, hopefully it'll be closer to 100-percent. I don't know if it'll ever be close to 100-percent, but it's getting better everyday. So hopefully in a couple weeks here it'll be ready to go."

Bishop has been using a small pad inside his blocker to help with the wrist, but plans to phase that out. He said Friday, the first full practice, should be a good test to see how it responds.

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Stamkos: Season will be 'tougher' this year

Lightning center Steven Stamkos is reflected in a mirror as he works on front squats during testing and physicals on the first day of training camp Thursday at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning center Steven Stamkos is reflected in a mirror as he works on front squats during testing and physicals on the first day of training camp Thursday at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos went through an array of testing and photo shoots before getting surrounded by cameras at Thursday's opening of camp.

"Summer is over," he said, smiling. "It starts tomorrow."

Stamkos realizes there's high expectations surrounding Tampa Bay, considering its surprising run to the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference last season. Many in the media are predicting them to make a deep playoff run, but Stamkos points out the danger in getting too ahead of themselves.

It took Tampa Bay three seasons to get back to the playoffs after making it to the 2010-11 Eastern Conference Final. …

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Lightning announce training camp schedule

The Lightning announced its training camp schedule Wednesday night, with three open practices on tap.

Tampa Bay opens camp Thursday at Amalie Arena, where there will be physicals and testing. The first full practice is Friday at Amalie Arena.

The Lightning will move to the Ice Forum in Brandon for an open practice Sunday, starting at 9 a.m. and including a scrimmage from 11:15 a.m,-12. The other open practices are on Sept. 27 Fan Fest (scrimmage) and Oct. 1 in Estero.

The current camp schedule is below and is subject to change.

Friday, September 19 at Amalie Arena
Group 1     8:40 am – 9:00 am Goalies on Ice
9:00 am – 10:15 am Practice
Group 2     10:30 am – 10:45 am Goalies on Ice
10:45 am – 11:30 am Practice
11:45 am – 12:30 pm Practice
Group 3     1:25 pm – 1:45 pm Goalies on Ice
1:45 pm – 2:30 pm Practice
2:45 pm – 3:30 pm Practice

Saturday, September 20 at Amalie Arena
Group 1     8:40 am – 9:00 am Goalies on Ice
9:00 am – 10:15 am Practice
Group 2     10:30 am – 10:45 am Goalies on Ice
10:45 am – 11:30 am Practice
11:45 am – 12:30 pm Practice
Group 3     1:25 pm – 1:45 pm Goalies on Ice
1:45 pm – 2:30 pm Practice
2:45 pm – 3:30 pm Practice …

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Lightning set training camp roster

The Lightning opens its training camp Thursday at Amalie Arena, starting with physicals and testing. The first day on the ice will be Friday.

Most of the team has been working out together in informal skates in Brandon and Amalie Arena in recent weeks.

The team announced its roster, and there aren't many surprises. The only new addition is goalie Peter Mannino, the former University of Denver product who played in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season.

The team's practices aren't open to the public, other than Fan Fest on Sept. 27 at Amalie Arena.

Here's the full camp roster, from the team: …

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Lightning lose 6-3 to Panthers in prospect tournament

The Lightning lost 6-3 to the Panthers Tuesday in the finale of the prospect tournament in Nashville, Tenn.

Rookie forward Michael Aviani, a camp invitee, scored his second goal of the three-game tourney. Defenseman Slater Koekkoek and Cameron Maclise also had goals for Tampa Bay, with forward Adam Erne seeing his first game action since offseason wrist surgery.

"It’s been a while since I have played a game, so I definitely had to get my legs underneath me, Erne said. "It felt good after a little bit. It was a tough game but Florida is a good team and we just didn’t
execute."

Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy saved 36 of 41 shots. The Lightning finished 1-1-1 in the tournament, outshot 42-27 Tuesday. The Lightning gave up four straight goals to break a 1-1 tie.

"We were talking in the dressing room about wanting to keep the momentum from the first two games but it seemed like Florida came and took it from the start and definitely finished it," Aviani said.

The Lightning prospects will have Wednesday off before resuming skating Thursday, when training camp opens at Amalie Arena.

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Video: Steven Stamkos converts from 91 yards

Steven Stamkos

YouTube

Steven Stamkos

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos has scored many goals with his rocket one-timer. And in a promotional clip for Bauer, Stamkos' slap shot was put to an interesting test, challenging him to shoot a puck off a plastic mat through the uprights from several distances on a football field. How far was his longest "field goal?" Check it out.

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Lightning beat Bruins 3-2 in overtime of prospect tournament

Defenseman Kodie Curran is definitely not one of the more high-profile prospects for the Lightning in this weekend's tournament in Nashville.

But Curran, 24, an invitee to camp, came up big Sunday night, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to beat the Bruins 3-2 in the second game of the prospects tournament.

“It was definitely one of the cooler experiences of my life,” said Curran, who spent the last four seasons at the University of Calgary. "It was fast-paced though, definitely a step quicker than college hockey, and being fortunate to be playing with such good players. I got a great pass from (Jonathan) Drouin there and I was able to capitalize."

Forwards Jonathan Drouin and Brayden Point each picked up the assist on the game-winner. Nikita Nesterov and Michael Aviani also scored for Tampa Bay, with goalie Kristers Gudlevskis stopping 23 of 25 shots.

But Curran was the unsung star for the Lightning, which lost to the Predators in overtime Saturday and will wrap up the three-game tournament Tuesday against the Panthers. …

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Former Lightning wing Ryan Malone signs with Rangers

Former Lightning wing Ryan Malone got the second chance he was looking for Thursday, signing a one-year, two-way deal with the Rangers. His NHL salary is $700,000, his AHL salary $100,000.

"I am willing to do whatever it takes," Malone said. "This is a great team."

Malone, 34, was bought out by Tampa Bay in June, his season effectively ending after his April arrest in Tampa on charges of DUI and cocaine possession. He pleaded no contest to the DUI charge last month and will enter a pretrial diversion program to settle the drug charge.

Malone joined informal workouts with the Rangers on Monday, publicly aplogizing to the Lightning organization and hoping to get another chance. The two-way deal gives the Rangers roster flexibility, and Malone seemed comfortable with a New York club that includes several forrmer teammates.

"I am looking for an opportunity to show the kind of person I am both on and off the ice," Malone told reporters in New York Monday. I am healthy and in good shape; and everything off ice is going well. I learned from my mistake off the ice and now just want to be part of something special."

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NHL rule changes include no more spin-o-rama

The NHL announced several new rule changes for this upcoming season, including outlawing the spin-o-rama move for shootouts and penalty shots.

Other changes, per the league:

*The trapezoid will be expanded by two feet from the goal post on both sides
of the net.

*A new Game Misconduct category will be created. Clipping, charging, elbowing, interference, kneeing, head-butting and butt-ending move from the general category into the same category as boarding and checking from behind (“Physical Fouls”), whereby a player who incurs two such game misconducts in this category would now be automatically suspended for one game. …

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Lightning Fan Fest set for Sept. 27

Lightning announced Wednesday that its Fan Fest will be held Sept. 27 at Amalie Arena.

The event, which begins at 10 a.m. and is free to the public, will include the opportunity to watch scrimmages from noon until 12:45 p.m. Half the Lightning players will sign autographs for 45 minutes on the concourse at 1:15 p.m. and other half from 2-2:45 p.m.

Fans can also have a chance to receive discounted prices on food and beverages from concession stands inside Amalie Arena. The Lightning Kids Zone will be available for young fans.

Fans can park at Lightning-owned lots for discounted rate of $5 and enter through grand entrance on Ford Thunder Alley.

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Prospect Adam Erne not yet cleared for contact

Lightning forward prospect Adam Erne arrived Tuesday and participated in the informal skate/scrimmage with his teammates.

But Erne, who had left wrist surgery in early July, said he still hasn't been cleared for contact, and is unsure of his status heading into this weekend's prospect tournament.

"I honestly have no clue," Erne said.

Erne said he hopes to find out more on Thursday, when the rookies are scheduled to report and take their physicals. But Erne has been encouraged how rehab has gone with the wrist, an injury that bothered him last season with the Quebec Remparts.

"It feels pretty good out there, I haven't tried to push it too much," Erne said. "But it's better than it was before."

Erne had 62 points (21 goals) in 48 games for the Remparts last season, when he said the wrist injury lingered. So he hasn't tested it too much, pointing out he hasn't taken many slap shots. But Erne expects to be ready for the season.

"I've learned my lesson," he said. "I'd rather just let it heal."

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Drouin: "I want to be on this club"

For Jonathan Drouin, he says one year makes a really big difference.

You can see it in his build, the 19-year-old rookie wing arriving in tremendous shape, a product of his six-days-a-week summer workouts in Montreal.

You can see it on the ice, with Drouin dazzling during Tuesday’s 4-on-4 scrimmage at the Lightning’s informal workouts, beating veteran goaltender Evgeni Nabokov on a breakaway goal.

Drouin, the No. 3 overall pick in 2013 and the league’s top-ranked prospect according to NHL.com, was motivated over the disappointment of getting sent back to juniors after last year’s training camp. How he fares this month could go a long way in determining if he’s here for keeps.

“Last year didn’t work out the way I wanted to, but this year is a different story,” Drouin said. “I want to be on this club. I’m a step closer than I was last year. I’m way more tested, I’ve got to push hard. It’s going to be a month full of work.” …

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Goalie Leland Irving gets invite to training camp

The Lightning is already loaded at the goaltender position, but will have another one in training camp, as former first-round pick Leland Irving is coming on a tryout invite, according to general manager Steve Yzerman.

Irving, the 26th overall pick by Calgary in 2006, will join the rest of the team when it reports to Amalie Arena when camp opens Sept. 18.

Irving, 26, played last season with Jokerit in the Finnish Elite league, going 23-18-12 with a 2.14 goals against average and a .922 save percentage in 55 games. He played in 13 games with Calgary with a 3-4-4 record and 3.25 G.A.A..

Irving will be the sixth goaltender in Tampa Bay's camp, including starter Ben Bishop, backup Evgeni Nabokov, as well as Andrei Vasilevskiy, Kristers Gudlevskis and Allen York, who is on an AHL deal with Syracuse.

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