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Conacher shows scoring chops in Lightning preseason loss

Tampa Bay Lightning center Cory Conacher (19) is congratulated after scoring a goal against the Nashville Predators during the third period of an NHL hockey preseason game Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) TNMH143

Tampa Bay Lightning center Cory Conacher (19) is congratulated after scoring a goal against the Nashville Predators during the third period of an NHL hockey preseason game Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) TNMH143

NASHVILLE — When C Cory Conacher was reacquired over the summer for his second stint with the Lightning, the thought was he could provide scoring punch to the bottom six.

But Conacher, 26, on a one-year, one-way, $575,000 deal, said he still had to prove it. And Saturday, Conacher delivered the tying goal early in the third period of a 4-3 preseason loss to the Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Conacher pounced on a turnover in the slot, beating G Marek Mazanec for his first goal in three preseason games.

"That was a Cory Conacher goal — an instinctive shot in the slot," said coach Jon Cooper, who coached Conacher in AHL Norfolk in 2011-12. "That's what that kid can do. When he shoots, the puck has eyes for him."

The 5-foot-8 forward is vying for the roster spot that will be open to start the season with veteran RW Ryan Callahan (hip surgery) expected to be out until mid November. Conacher thought Saturday was his best preseason game. "Just wanted to shoot the puck a little more," he said.

CUT TIME: With AHL Syracuse opening camp Tuesday, the Lightning was expected to make a big round of cuts today or Monday.

HIGH PRAISE: LW Joel Vermin said one of his biggest improvements since last season has been in his reliability in the defensive zone. And his teammates have taken notice. C Tyler Johnson compared Vermin to LW Ondrej Palat, considered one of the league's most underrated two-way forwards.

"(Vermin is) a solid two-way guy, 200 feet (player)," Johnson said. "You always know you're going to get his 100 percent. He's just a solid guy all the way. He's picked up his game a bit."

EASING IN: Much has been made about D James Wisniewski adjusting to the team's system during his camp tryout. Wisniewski, 32, said the main adjustment has been how Tampa Bay encourages its defensemen to jump in the rush, dubbing it "new-school hockey."

"For me it's harder," Wisniewski said. " A couple times I've done something and I'm like, 'Oh, that's my fault.' And they say, 'No, it's a great job; it's the forward's (responsibility).' Just never played that way before. But it takes some getting used to."

NUTS AND BOLTS: G Ben Bishop made his preseason debut, stopping 22 of 26 shots. "A step in the right direction," he said. Three of the four goals allowed were on the power play. He also assisted on C Valtteri Filppula's goal. … RW Jonathan Drouin picked up where he left off in last season's playoffs, looking dangerous on most shifts and getting an assist. … D Nikita Nesterov scored a power-play goal, the Lightning's first of the preseason, on a point shot. "We're going to look for more of that in the future," Cooper said. … F Mitchell Stephens, a second-round draft pick in 2015, got in his first preseason game after being sidelined with an injury. … Cooper said it was difficult to evaluate players when his team had to kill 13 power plays in the past two games. … The Lightning has two preseason games left, Thursday and Oct. 8.

Contact Joe Smith at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Conacher shows scoring chops in Lightning preseason loss 10/01/16 [Last modified: Saturday, October 1, 2016 11:42pm]
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