Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning focuses on conditioning for stretch run

ORLANDO — For five continuous minutes Friday, Lightning players skated what basically were wind sprints: down the ice, circle to circle, then slower back to the starting point.

That the exercise occurred at the end of a 45-minute practice at the RDV Sportsplex made it all the more challenging.

But as associate coach Rick Bowness said, it was necessary for the team, getting back into shape after a 10-day practice break because of the Olympics, to be ready for the resumption of full team practices Monday and a game Thursday at Nashville.

"You don't have a lot of time to get them ready, so it's a good reminder to the mind and body how hard we have to work," Bowness said. "It's a no-brainer for us, but it's a commitment skate."

"Everyone knows we need to do it, and it's something you accept," RW B.J. Crombeen said. "It's something you put your head down and work through."

The first two days of Tampa Bay's three-day Central Florida sojourn have been devoted to regaining a feel for the puck, conditioning and reinforcing how to play within the team system.

Things wrap up today with a controlled scrimmage "to get some more game in there," Bowness said. "We've got to do some more combat drills, competitive drills, so (Saturday) will be more of a team-play kind of practice."

"It's just good to get back into a rhythm," G Ben Bishop said. "Next week we'll get serious and gamelike. We went pretty hard (Friday), but next week turn it up a notch and get ready to go."

ABSENT: Coach Jon Cooper missed practice and will miss today's, too, because he is in Green Bay, Wis., where he dropped the first puck in Friday's U.S. Hockey League game between Green Bay and Rochester.

Cooper coached from 2008-10 in Green Bay and led the Gamblers to the 2010 championship.

MEDICAL MATTERS: C Valtteri Filppula (fractured ankle), C Tyler Johnson (foot) and D Matt Carle (foot), skated individually. Carle skated before practice in full gear. Filppula and Johnson skated after practice without pads.

Filppula said his right ankle feels "a little weak" at times. "I take some strides and it kind of gives up, so that's not good."

Even so, he planned to practice Monday.

Johnson, who played two games before the Olympic break after taking a shot off his left foot Feb. 4 at Minnesota, said he should be good to go at Nashville.

When it was noted his limp had improved, he joked, "I told you, that's how I walk."

WATCH PARTY: The team had off-ice workouts after practice, so players were at the rink for the start of the Olympic semifinal between Canada and the United States.

Sandwiches were brought in as players watched the first period in the players lounge. They watched the second period on tablets and phones on the bus to the hotel. Some watched the third period in the hotel lounge.

IN CLOSING: Credit to assistant coach Steve Thomas, 50, for participating — and not looking too shabby — in the postpractice wind sprints.

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