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Lightning’s Tony Cirelli looking to build off strong end to season; J.T. Miller misses practice

Cirelli will start the season as the third line center, a role he filled late last year after a late-season call-up from AHL Syracuse.
Lightning center Yanni Gourde, left,  celebrates with teammate Tony Cirelli, right, after Cirelli scored during Game 3 of the playoff series against the Bruins in May. [AP Photo/Charles Krupa]
Lightning center Yanni Gourde, left, celebrates with teammate Tony Cirelli, right, after Cirelli scored during Game 3 of the playoff series against the Bruins in May. [AP Photo/Charles Krupa]
Published Oct. 2, 2018|Updated Oct. 2, 2018

TAMPA — Center Tony Cirelli could not have asked for a much better start or finish to his first NHL season.

Called up from AHL Syracuse in late February, Cirelli scored a goal and an assist in his NHL debut against the Stars on March 1. In the 18 regular-season games he played, he finished with five goals and 11 points.

Then came the postseason where Cirelli's success continued. He played in 17 games, scoring two goals.

"It was an unbelievable experience," Cirelli said. "Just to be here and get called up at the end of the year and be able to play in the playoffs, it was just something I will remember forever."

It remains to be seen if he can maintain this level of play through an entire regular season, something he will have the chance to do as the Lightning's third-line center ahead of the opener against Florida on Saturday.

"He made some noise for us in the playoffs and played a significant role in the third-line center spot, killing penalties," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "You look to see, did he hang his hat on that? Or is he coming in hungry? It seems to be the latter."

Cooper added that throughout camp, Cirelli has built on what he showed the Lightning last year.

That was Cirelli's goal. And to be a little bit stronger and faster.

Right now, he is on a line with veteran winger Alex Killorn and camp-star Mathieu Joseph. Cirelli does not plan to leave anytime soon, now that he has tasted NHL success.

"It just makes you hungry to play at this level and play against the best players in the world and play with them," Cirelli said. "It just makes you hungry to get back to where we were last year, if not even further."

Miller misses practice, Martel fills in

Forward J.T. Miller missed practice Tuesday because of an illness, the team said. It gave Danick Martel the chance to fill his spot on the top line.

That meant skating with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.

No pressure, kid.

"For sure right now, you're a bit stressed," Martel said.

Martel, who was claimed off waivers from the Flyers about 10 days ago, said this is the type of experience he covets, despite how daunting it might be.

"They are so smart," Martel said. "They don't have to skate as hard as I do just because they are so smart with the puck. They know the style of the game. For sure for me, I have to play really quick and really hard just because I need to recover some time from a mistake or some errors."

All four lines in practice Tuesday:

Danick Martel /Steven Stamkos /Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat/Brayden Point/Yanni Gourde

Alex Killorn/Tony Cirelli/Mathieu Joseph

Adam Erne/Cedric Paquette/Cory Conacher

Also, Tyler Johnson participated in practice while wearing a red no-contact sweater. Ryan Callahan, who is expected to be placed on injured reserve as he nurses a shoulder injury, also remained in red while practicing.

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