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Lightning won't wait to make final cuts

Left wing Cory Conacher, battling for a roster spot, worked on one of the power play units as played on a line with Vinny Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell. “It’s important for me to keep my head small and just keep going,” he says.


Left wing Cory Conacher, battling for a roster spot, worked on one of the power play units as played on a line with Vinny Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell. “It’s important for me to keep my head small and just keep going,” he says.

ESTERO — Final rosters must be submitted to the league by 3 p.m. Friday, but those attending the training camp-ending practice at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum will get a sneak peek.

"When we hit the ice on Friday, we'll have our team," coach Guy Boucher said.

Two or three forward positions are believed open. And though Boucher said "nobody is set," LW Cory Conacher has consistently been used in high-profile situations during four days of camps.

He was part of the second power play unit Wednesday while continuing his non-special teams work with C Vinny Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell.

Conacher, with 12 goals and 28 points in 36 games this season for AHL Syracuse, said he hasn't been told anything about his chances to make the team.

"I still have a lot of work to do and a lot of things to work for," he said. "There's guys battling for position, and I'm one of those guys. So it's important for me to keep my head small and just keep going."

Tyler Johnson finally got going. The center, who leads Syracuse with 20 goals and 35 points, has been under the radar during camp but on Wednesday got a long look on a third line with Tom Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot. He also took turns with the second power play.

"We're just trying to see if those guys have what it takes right now to start the year and contribute at the NHL level," Boucher said. "We've got to start strong, and we'll see if they can do that."

GROUNDWORK: With a defense settled even before camp, Radko Gudas knew he and fellow Syracuse defensemen Matt Taormina and Mark Barberio could only imprint their skills on the minds of the coaches.

After all, you never know when injuries will necessitate help from the minors.

"That's what they told us before we got here; that the team is pretty much all set up for the season," Gudas said. "We just want to make a good impression in case anything happens so they know we can play on this level."

DRAMA: For a few seconds Wednesday, the Lightning held its collective breath. G Anders Lindback, run over during a scrimmage by net-crashing RW B.J. Crombeen and pursuing D Keith Aulie, was on the ice and not moving.

Then he popped up and kept playing.

"Just putting on a little scene there," Lindback said later.

Lindback had, perhaps, his best day at camp, allowing no goals during a 20-minute scrimmage and putting on a good show during power play practice with in-close saves on Johnson and Teddy Purcell and on Steven Stamkos' wraparound.

"I feel more and more comfortable, and things are starting to fall into place," Lindback said. "I'm pretty close."

Though Lindback said he has "no clue" if he or Mathieu Garon will start Saturday's opener against the Capitals, he added, "I'll be ready to go."

FIGHT CLUB: For several minutes after practice, Crombeen and LW Ryan Malone took turns working on fighting moves with 6-foot-2, 220-pound prospect Pierre-Cedric Labrie. No punches landed in the mock battles, but Crombeen and Malone honed their jersey holds, footwork and punching positions.

"For us, it's part of the game we play," Malone said. "We just want to make sure we're ready for the season as best we can be."

TICKETS: Just 700 remain for the opener, the Lightning said, adding about 700 season tickets have been sold since Jan. 6, including 200 special offers for $200.

ODDS AND ENDS: Stamkos scored twice and Pyatt got his third goal in two days in the White's 3-0 scrimmage win over the Blue. … Taormina did not skate for a second straight day. Boucher said only he is "stiff." … Players who must clear waivers to be sent to Syracuse will be on the wire at noon today. … Beach volleyball was the bonding exercise of the day. … Practice today is at 10:30 a.m.

Around the league: Devils lock up Zajac

NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey signed center Travis Zajac to an eight-year, $46 million contract. Zajac, 27, played only 15 regular-season games in 2011-12, his sixth season, because of an Achilles injury. But he scored seven goals during the playoffs to help New Jersey reach the Cup final.

More Devils: Wing Ilya Kovalchuk, who missed the first three practices to play in the KHL All-Star Game, played in a scrimmage against New Jersey's AHL affiliate. Kovalchuk, who scored 37 goals last season, said there was never a doubt about returning to the NHL but wanted to play in Sunday's All-Star game as a way to thank his Russian fans.

Blues: General manager Doug Armstrong signed a five-year extension.

Coyotes: Matthew Lombardi was acquired from the Leafs for a 2014 fourth-round pick. The center had eight goals and 10 assists in 62 games last season.

Flames: Wing Jarome Iginla practiced for the first time after missing three days with a groin injury. He said he believes he will be ready for the season opener.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Lightning won't wait to make final cuts 01/16/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 12:20am]
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