Can the Lightning really have too much competition for its open roster spots?
Coach Guy Boucher said yes, but in a wink-wink, nudge-nudge kind of way as he clearly likes that decisions will be difficult.
"There's so much you like that you're seeing," he said. "A lot of our guys on the bubble are trying to make the team."
The bubble got less crowded after Sunday's 21 cuts. But that doesn't mean the battle for the final few forward spots will be less intense during two weeks of practice that begin today at the St. Pete Times Forum ahead of the Oct. 9 season opener.
There will be nuts and bolts, too, especially during two-a-day practices today and Wednesday, as the team starts polishing the details of Boucher's 1-3-1 system that got its first test drives during last week's successful four-game road trip that ended 2-1-1.
"It will be exciting to see what's in store for us, to have the team ready and playing the system," LW Ryan Malone said. "We're still learning."
And Boucher and GM Steve Yzerman are still trying to figure out how to fill out the roster.
It is quite a puzzle. If the Lightning keeps eight defensemen — which Boucher, citing injuries to Matt Smaby (concussion) and Mathieu Roy (six stitches above right eye), prefers — there would be room for only 13 forwards on the 23-player roster.
Eleven spots seem spoken for, assuming RW Adam Hall makes the team, meaning there would be two spots open with Johan Harju, Dana Tyrell, Marc Pouliot and Eric Perrin in the mix.
Chris Durno was in the conversation until Monday, when he was put on waivers.
But if the team keeps seven defensemen, it could keep up to 14 forwards, increasing available spots to three.
Boucher said he evaluates with three criteria: attitude, work ethic and discipline.
"Does a guy want more or less? Is he listening? Is he eager? I'm a really big fan of people who want more. Work ethic for me is extremely high. I'm talking about being relentless. Guys who work hard are not good enough. And the last thing is discipline, sticking to the plan, can they adapt?"
And, in the end, can they compete?
WAIVERS: Seven players are on waivers, including six who were part of Sunday's cuts and need to clear before they can attend training camp at AHL Norfolk. The seventh was Durno.
The others are forwards Mike Angelidis, Mitch Fritz, Blair Jones, Juraj Simek and Paul Szczechura, and D Vladimir Mihalik.
It will be known at noon today if any were claimed.
Around the league
Canadiens, Panthers fight: Erik Gudbranson of Florida, the No. 3 pick this year, needed stitches on his left eyebrow after he was punched by Travis Moen during Montreal's 6-2 victory in a preseason game.
"I was pinned against the boards, and the refs were holding onto my arms, so I was kind of hung out to dry there," said Gudbranson, who also had a welt below his left eye.
Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said Moen took advantage of the 18-year-old defenseman's predicament: "I don't know when it became all right in this league for a veteran guy to get a young kid hurt and in a vulnerable position and to keep throwing punches. It was a play that I don't see how they can be proud of."
Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said he "didn't really see" what happened.
Information from Times wires was used in this report. Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.