BRANDON — Victor Hedman said that as soon as the lockout was settled, he booked his flights back to the United States.
But the quick getaway meant the Lightning defenseman, who had been playing for Barys Astana of Russia's KHL, would have to skip that league's All-Star Game on Sunday in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Hedman called it a no-brainer.
"It was a big accomplishment, but this is where I belong," he said Wednesday after his first skate at the Ice Sports Forum. "This is where I want to be."
Hedman, 21, entering his fourth season and starting a five-year contract, had a notable run for his Khazakhstan-based team with a goal and 20 points in 26 games. He was plus-18 and averaged 21:44 of ice time.
Because larger European rinks mean less emphasis on physical play, Hedman said, "I have to get my mean streak back."
More important, he said, is the improvement he believes he made on offense.
"My offensive game got a real boost," said Hedman, who took a regular turn on Barys' power play. "It's up to me to prove it to the coaches that I improved.
"I don't set a bar. I want to be as good as I can. I want to be one of those guys who makes a difference."
FINE AND DANDY: When G Anders Lindback spent Wednesday in the gym instead of on the ice, questions about his injured right knee percolated.
But Lindback said the knee, which needed six stitches after being hit by a puck while he played in Finland during the lockout for Ilves Tampere, is good to go and he would skate today.
"Everything is fine," he said, "and going well."
Lindback, 24, whom the Lightning hopes will be its long-term solution in net, had a 2.33 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in 13 games with Ilves.
The team was only 4-6-3, "but it was a good experience," Lindback said. " It was great to get to play instead of just working out. I'm excited to get going here."
Hedman, who played with his fellow Swede at the 2010 world championship, said, "We should be excited to have him here. He's an aggressive goalie, and he saves the puck. That's the biggest key for a goalie."
RACING: With only 11 forwards in Brandon (one short of four complete lines), D Marc-Andre Bergeron played right wing on a line with C Nate Thompson and Tom Pyatt.
Asked if he was going to play forward during the season, Bergeron said, "I hope not," and compared playing the position to a horse race.
"Oh, my God," he said. "Everything is faster and so different. I'm not used to it."
ODDS AND ENDS: D Brendan Mikkelson also showed up for his first skate, meaning F Kyle Wilson is the only non minor-league player not in Brandon. … C Steven Stamkos had the whistle during Wednesday's prescrimmage drills, but W Marty St. Louis for the second straight day was barking the most orders. … AHL Syracuse defenseman Keith Aulie will be invited to training camp, Crunch GM Julien BriseBois said. … Syracuse coach Jon Cooper was named a co-coach, with Binghamton's Luke Richardson, of the Eastern Conference team for the Jan. 28 AHL All-Star Game in Providence, R.I. Syracuse is 23-7-5 for a league-best 49 points.