Steven Stamkos arrives at Lightning camp
Steven Stamkos didn't have to be at Monday's practice at Amalie Arena.
The Lightning captain was fresh off helping Canada win the World Cup Thursday in Toronto, where he celebrated all weekend with friends and family. Tampa Bay gave him five days off before reporting.
But there was Stamkos, 26, Monday morning, putting on his Lightning jersey for the first time since signing an eight-year deal in June 29. He skated on a line with Jonathan Drouin and Ondrej Palat, ripped his trademark one-timer on power play drills.
"I just wanted to stay in shape, to be honest," Stamkos said, smiling.
Defenseman Victor Hedman, who also arrived Monday with fellow Swede Anton Stralman, had another theory: "He's excited to play golf with the guys."
The Lightning bussed to Estero Monday afternoon for a four-day trip, which includes a practice Tuesday, a day off (golfing) Wednesday and an exhibition in Sunrise Thursday. And Stamkos wanted to be part of it.
"You've got to take that as an awesome sign of your captain," coach Jon Cooper said. "We gave him the option not to come back and he came back. You can tell he's really excited to be here and around his teammates. We're glad to have him back."
Stamkos had a blast at the World Cup, a tournament that meant even more to him considering he couldn't play at the 2014 Sochi Olympics due to injury. Stamkos had one goal and 15 shots in six games before hoisting the trophy Thursday.
"It was pretty special," Stamkos said. "Not being able to play in Sochi, this is something I was nervously, anxiously awaiting. It was a lot of fun to be with those guys, how many captains are on that team with all the leadership and see what guys do and bring that mentality to this team hopefully."
Stamkos scored 36 goals last season, until a late March blood clot sidelined him until Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. He's healthy, and now with any contract questions out of the way, he feels it will free him more mentally this season.
"It's just no distractions," Stamkos said. "You go out and have fun, play hockey. It's amazing how powerful the mind can be at certain times, where maybe your focus not being on what you have to do every night to go and help your team win. No excuses this year."
Developing: The Lightning captain arrived at training camp Monday, just four days after helping Canada win the World Cup. He was joined by fellow franchise cornerstone Victor Hedman, who began practice with usual partner Anton Stralman.
It was the first time Stamkos put on a Lightning jersey since signing an eight-year, $68 million deal on June 29.
Stamkos skated on a line with Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin. The only Lightning player not yet in camp is wing Nikita Kucherov, a restricted free agent who is holding out until he has a contract.
Lightning lines: Palat-Stamkos-Drouin/Killorn-Johnson-Point/Namestnikov-Filppula-Brown/Boyle-Paquette-Condra/Dumont-Conacher-Vermin.
Defensive pairings: Hedman-Stralman/Garrison-Sustr/Nesterov-Coburn/Koekkoek-Witkowski