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Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Cory Conacher, Keith Aulie earn final Lightning roster spots

“I’m never going to take it for granted,” Lightning forward Pierre-Cedric Labrie says of making the team.


“I’m never going to take it for granted,” Lightning forward Pierre-Cedric Labrie says of making the team.

ESTERO — Truth be told, F Pierre-Cedric Labrie was worried about how to make an impression at Lightning training camp.

"I mean, we weren't allowed to hit anybody," the 6-foot-2, 220-pound downhill-rolling boulder said. "It takes half my game away."

Even so, after 14 NHL games last season, Tampa Bay coaches knew what Labrie can bring and wanted it on the roster for Saturday's opener at home against the Capitals.

"I'm never going to take it for granted," Labrie said of the promotion from AHL Syracuse. "Just work and try to get better every day."

LW Cory Conacher and D Keith Aulie, also promoted from Syracuse, filled out the Lightning's 23-player roster as the team finished four days of workouts at Germain Arena.

Aulie, 23, was not a surprise. Coach Guy Boucher regularly plays seven defensemen, so keeping him as an eighth is good insurance against injury. There also likely was some concern the 6-6, 217-pounder would be claimed if exposed to waivers to reassign him to Syracuse.

Conacher, too, was expected. He was the final cut last season, was the 2011-12 AHL rookie of the year and this week played exclusively on a line with C Vinny Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell.

"I thought he was on fire during the entire camp," Boucher said. "And I didn't make it easy. People think you put those guys with top players it's easier. It's the opposite. You've got to keep up, or you're very easily exposed. What was exposed was his talent, his speed and quickness to react. I like his grit. I like his relentlessness. He deserves it."

For Labrie, 25, attitude as much as hockey sense earned him a spot, though it helped he is physical, fights and added eight goals in 32 games for Syracuse.

"He's such a character person and brings unbelievable intangibles," Boucher said. "And he's a good hockey player, too. He can handle the puck, and he's smart."

"Energy," Labrie said when asked what he brings to the team. "I'm not going to be there for the power play or the (penalty kill). But right after that, if they need momentum back, I'm ready to jump on the ice and get the energy level on our side."

DEMOTIONS: Forwards Mike Angelidis, Kyle Wilson and J.T. Wyman and D Matt Taormina are on waivers to be reassigned to Syracuse. … F Tyler Johnson, who leads Syracuse with 20 goals and 35 points, and defensemen Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas did not need to clear waivers and were reassigned to the Crunch. Later, Johnson, Barberio and Syracuse RW Richard Panik were named AHL All-Stars.

BONDING: A Wednesday beach volleyball tournament followed by a yoga session as the sun set were the last activities used by players to promote team chemistry during their trip to southwest Florida. Players also had team dinners, and some played golf as old buddies renewed ties and newcomers were brought into the fold.

"The whole week was fun. We should do it like this all the time," C Steven Stamkos said. "It was just a great way for the guys to get closer."

For the record, the team of Stamkos, Lecavalier, Wyman, Tom Pyatt and Sami Salo won the volleyball title with a sweep of the best-of-three championship match from Purcell, Marty St. Louis, Brendan Mikkelson, Anders Lindback and Mathieu Garon.

R&R: Stamkos and LW Ryan Malone were excused from the 20-minute scrimmage that ended practice. Boucher said it was part of his program to manage player rest.

END POINT: Training camp ends today at the Tampa Bay Times Forum with a short practice at 11:30 a.m. that is free and open to the public. The team will offer a free lunch at 11 a.m. on the arena's west plaza.

NUMBER SWITCH: Conacher, who wore No. 36 in camp, will wear 89 during the season, the number he wore at Syracuse.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Cory Conacher, Keith Aulie earn final Lightning roster spots 01/17/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 10:40pm]
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