TAMPA — Vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said he reminded players that a six-day training camp and only four preseason games before a trip to Europe means quicker personnel decisions.
"I told them in the opening meeting," Lawton said, " 'Every time you're on the ice, every time you're in the arena, every time you're in the hotel, you have to do what you can to impress your coaches.' "
Forty-two players are in camp, excluding injured Jeff Halpern; 17 forwards are signed to one-way contracts and perhaps three spots are open on defense.
That means position battles, and less time to win them.
"You've got to do things faster, and hope everything falls into place," D Andrew Hutchinson said. "You've got to make the best of it."
Lawton did not rule out making final cuts in Europe, where the team plays two preseason games before two regular-season games against the Rangers, and said the team could take more than the allotted 24 players, one greater than a usual NHL roster.
But coach Barry Melrose has said he would like to have the team set by Sept. 25, when it leaves for the Czech Republic after a preseason game in New York.
HAPPY RETURNS: Said Melrose of his first day as a coach since March 1995, "It was great being out there and with the guys and teaching again. I remembered how much I loved it."
Melrose, who spent 12 years as an ESPN analyst after being fired by the Kings, said all the players showed up in at least "good" shape and that, "We just have to cut our goals-against down. That alone will put us in the playoffs."
One minor problem:
"Feet hurt," Melrose said. "I have to call back home and get my old Bauers sent down."
STONE LEGS: A minuteslong drill in which defensemen started, stopped, spun and sprinted around the center-ice circle had players in pain.
"In the end," Andrej Meszaros said, "your legs feel like stone."
BETTER OFF HERE: Lawton said there was discussion about sending No. 1 draft choice Steven Stamkos to the still-going prospects camp in Traverse City, Mich. Had he gone, Stamkos might not have arrived in camp until Friday.
"That really sealed the deal," Lawton said.
Said Stamkos: "It would have been fun. On the other hand, it was great I got to come here a week early and skate with the guys in Brandon. It makes the comfort level so much better."
ODDS AND ENDS: Melrose said neither C Vinny Lecavalier nor D Paul Ranger will scrimmage this week. Both are rehabbing right-shoulder surgeries. … Wing Nick Tarnasky was the first to hemorrhage after a shot turned his left thumb into a mess that required gauze and tape. … The Lightning lost 5-3 to the Rangers at a prospects camp in Traverse City, Mich. Mitch Fadden, Kyle De Coste and Chris Lawrence scored. Torre Jung made 25 saves. Tampa Bay (0-3) was 0-for-9 on the power play and is 1-for-24 in the tournament. … Melrose and Meszaros will be on Lightning Hockey Night today on 620-AM. The 7 p.m. broadcast will be from Trolley's in the Tampa Embassy Suites. Stick around for autographs.