Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Finding depth scoring a Lightning priority

Right wing Erik Condra underwhelmed offensively (six goals, 11 points) last season, his first with the Lightning.


Right wing Erik Condra underwhelmed offensively (six goals, 11 points) last season, his first with the Lightning.

RALEIGH, N.C. — The urgency with which veteran wing Erik Condra skated, and created, in Thursday's preseason game, you'd think he was fighting for his job. "You have to come in and impress," Condra said.

The Lightning has made it clear it needs more offensive production from its third and fourth lines this season. It was exposed as a top-heavy team in last season's playoffs, losing to the deeper Penguins in the Eastern Conference final.

Bounce-back seasons from Condra and center Cedric Paquette would help, and plenty of prospects, along with free-agent signee Cory Conacher, are pushing for a spot. At least one open roster spot will be open to start the season with Ryan Callahan (hip surgery) out until mid November.

"I don't think anybody can sit there and say, 'Oh, I'm completely comfortable,' " coach Jon Cooper said, "even guys that have kind of been mainstays. There are open spots on this team. Everyone is breathing down each other's necks."

Condra, who signed a three-year, $3.75 million deal before last season, struggled in his first year in Tampa Bay. It was tough for the only new guy on an established, tight-knit team coming off a run to the Stanley Cup final. Condra wasn't as effective as he needed to be, with just six goals (11 points) in 54 games, and he was a healthy scratch in all but three playoff games. "It was an up-and-down year," he said. "I've never really gone through it to that extent."

Paquette never really found his game, largely due to injuries. He missed the season's start due to a left foot injury suffered blocking a shot in a preseason game. The foot became in infected in December, an issue that lingered. "I know my game wasn't there at all. I didn't play very (well)," said Paquette, who had six goals in 56 games. "We need scoring from all four lines, and last year that's what we were lacking in the playoffs. Myself, I didn't produce like I was the year before. I wish I could have helped more."

Paquette should be able to this season, saying he's in his best shape in four years. "I'm ready," he said. So are Conacher, signed to a one-year, one-way deal, and prospects such as Joel Vermin. Vermin has plenty of speed and hockey sense, and he can score, with nine goals at AHL Syracuse. He appeared in six games with the Lightning last season before a broken finger ended his stint. "I came here to make the team," he said.

The Lightning did get career offensive years last season from J.T. Brown (eight goals) and Vladislav Namestnikov (14), and veteran Brian Boyle had 13 goals, including five in the playoffs. But with captain Steven Stamkos missing all but one playoff game due to a blood clot, Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin and Alex Killorn carried the load with 28 of the Lightning's 48 playoff goals. Callahan, Namestnikov, Brown, Paquette and Valtteri Filppula had four among them. Meanwhile, the Penguins' third line of Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin combined for 20 goals and 57 points in the postseason.

"Everything fell on the paddle of a few guys that carried us as far as we could go," Cooper said. "But we needed more. You can see the team that won the Cup (Penguins) got scoring all through their lineup. And ultimately, that's what you need to win."

The Lightning is determined to find it.

Finding depth scoring a Lightning priority 09/30/16 [Last modified: Saturday, October 1, 2016 12:12am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Friday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb hates to hear how he "battled through" or "grinded out" a start rather than just dominated, but that's kind of what he did Friday, allowing nine hits and a walk and being charged with two wild pitches but only three runs in earning his 12th win.

  2. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was curious how he would feel — and perform — in Friday's exhibition against Nashville, his first game since mid-November knee surgery.

    The Lightning’s Alex Killorn, left, makes his preseason debut and has an assist in a 3-1 win against the Predators at Amalie Arena.
  3. Rays journal: Rays tie franchise home run record

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — A major flaw in the Rays offense this season — and thus a major reason for their inconsistent play and losing record — has been too much reliance on the home run.

    Wilson Ramos points after hitting a grand slam during the second inning, putting the Rays up 4-0.
  4. Ww's Odessabeach makes run at Husker Magic stakes final


    ST. PETERSBURG — When Hurricane Irma blew through Florida earlier this month, Ww's Odessabeach remained in her comfort zone.

  5. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs this season while improving his defense and baserunning but wants to improve on his .236 batting average.