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Tampa Bay Lightning opens training camp with new system to learn

TAMPA — By the time the Lightning opens training camp today at the St. Pete Times Forum, coach Guy Boucher figures he will have had extensive meetings, some as long as three hours, with about two-thirds of his players.

There was plenty of get-to-know-you talk, but also talk about the system Boucher wants to play and has only four days to install — three, if you consider the team won't be on the ice until Saturday — before the preseason opener Tuesday at Dallas.

Think about that.

Tampa Bay's new coach has all of 72 hours, give or take, to execute a crash course on what some of his players say is a system radically different from anything they have played and that might do for offensive strategy what the neutral-zone trap did for defense.

No wonder Boucher, 39, the league's youngest bench boss, provided the summer primer.

"I don't like to waste time," he said. "We can't kid ourselves into thinking everything is going to start great. The reality is we're the team that has made the most changes with the staff, on all levels, and the number of players who are new on the team. We're the ones who have to work real hard on the chemistry part of what we're trying to do."

• • •

Boucher is tight-lipped about his system, saying he is wary of giving away plans to coaches who scan newspapers and websites for information.

"One thing is for sure. Whatever we're going to do, we're going to be aggressive," he said. "That's how I am as a person. I'm a real intense individual, as the players will find out quick. I'm going to demand that intensity. I'm ferociously persistent in what I want. My systems are based on that."

Players, too, were wary of speaking about it. As right wing Marty St. Louis said, "It's hard to comment on it because I haven't played it."

But there are generalizations:

• The coach wants the puck on the sticks of his top six forwards. That means immediately moving the puck forward and eschewing, for the most part, the passes between defensemen that so many teams use to start clearing the defensive zone.

• The defense will pick its spots to join the rush but will not hang back, either, coming forward enough toward the opposing blue line to oppose counter-attacks while being in position to jump into the offense.

• Defensive zone coverages will include a somewhat unique technique in which two defensemen converge on opponents in corners to force turnovers. If the defensemen get beat, forwards are expected to play stout defense.

• • •

Much has been made of Tampa Bay's lack of a true puck-rushing defenseman. Given how Boucher wants to move the puck, he said it is not necessary:

"What we've got with our forwards is speed, and we're smart. So basically what we tried to do over the summer — and (general manager Steve Yzerman) did an outstanding job of it — was find guys who can move the puck. If we can move the puck to our forwards quick enough, they can do their magic."

"We have to play that way," defenseman Pavel Kubina said. "This team has so much offensive talent, why would you go D-to-D pass? Our job as defensemen is to give them the puck and join the rush if we can."

Sounds good to St. Louis:

"I'm a go-go type player. I don't like (passing) D to D 15 times. Then I have to slow down. Get the puck up. Let everybody get in the chase and come up with us."

Taken individually, Boucher's plans are interesting. As a whole, left wing Simon Gagne said, they might finally nudge the league away from the trap as a default system.

"We always played the trap," he said of his 10 seasons with the Flyers. "This is totally different. It's going to be exciting to play that system. I don't know what we're going to call it, but he can bring a new start in hockey."

Said St. Louis, "Some of us — a lot of us; probably most of us — will have to change the way we played before. It's going to take some time to get used to."

At least 72 hours.

. fast facts

Lightning training camp

When: Today through Tuesday

Where: Today at the St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa; Saturday-Tuesday at the Ice Sports Forum, Brandon

Schedule: Today — players report and off-ice testing; Saturday, Sunday — practices/scrimmages, 10 a.m.; Monday — practice, 10 a.m.; Tuesday — practice, 11 a.m.

Note: Practices and scrimmages at the Ice Sports Forum are free and open to the public.

On the Web: Follow coverage of the Lightning at lightning.tampabay.com

Tampa Bay Lightning opens training camp with new system to learn 09/16/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 17, 2010 8:32am]

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