1. Lightning

Forward prospect Brown ready for role with Lightning

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Published Sep. 5, 2013

TAMPA — It's been an eventful year for the Lightning's J.T. Brown.

The right wing missed 25 games for AHL Syracuse because of a broken collarbone. But he became a student of the game by watching from the press box, where he said the action seemed to slow: "You can see mistakes people are making before they make them."

Brown flourished in the playoffs, with four goals and nine points in 18 games, solidifying himself as one of Tampa Bay's top prospects and further burying his June 2011 arrest, and guilty plea to two misdemeanors, for fleeing police after trying to use a fake ID at a bar.

Brown, who was at the University of Minnesota-Duluth at the time, said he cleared his record after his July 2012 sentencing by serving a short probation.

"You learn from your mistakes," he said, "and move on."

Brown, 23, who played five games for the Lightning after he was signed in March 2012 as a free agent out of college, is ready to move up. The first step: showing what he can do at Tampa Bay's prospects camp and weekend prospects tournament in Coral Springs.

"He played really well for us at the end of last year," Syracuse coach Rob Zettler said Wednesday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. "He was one of my go-to guys defensively. He scored some big goals for us offensively and was really showing his speed. I look for good things from him."

So does Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, who said Brown should be able to play in all situations, including the power play, because "he can make plays," and the penalty kill, because "he's responsible defensively, he's very fast and has good skills."

At 5 feet 10, 170 pounds, Brown also is deceptively strong.

"He runs over people quite well," Yzerman said. "We think he's a very good prospect."

UP FOR GRABS: G Kristers Gudlevskis will get a chance to challenge Cedrick Desjardins and Riku Helenius for a spot with Syracuse. "It's competition," Yzerman said. "He'll have to beat out one of the incumbents, but I wouldn't rule that out."

Gudlevskis, 21, drafted 124th overall in June, played 56 games last season and had a 2.09 goals-against average for HK Riga, the junior team of the KHL's Dinamo Riga.

FORWARD THINKING: The most difficult part about playing forward after a career on defense is figuring out positioning, Drew Olson said.

But there also is this: "As a defenseman, you learn to conserve your energy and take your opportunity when you can. Forward is go, go, go."

Olson said he has played five games at right wing, one in four years at Minnesota-Duluth and four last season for AHL Peoria. Yet that is where Tampa Bay wants him to play. "I've been pretty comfortable with it," said Olson, 23, acquired in July from the Blue Jackets for future considerations. "It suits my game. I can skate and lay some body, too. As of right now, it's not so bad."

SCHEDULE: Players are on the ice at 11 a.m. today at the Times Forum. Fans should enter through Gate B.

ODDS AND ENDS: Don't expect the Lightning to name a captain to replace bought-out Vinny Lecavalier until after its final preseason game. … FanFest is Sept. 14 at the Times Forum.

Around the league

Blackhawks: The defending Stanley Cup champions and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson agreed to a five-year, $20.5 million contract extension through 2018-19.

Flyers: All-Star forward Claude Giroux, who had surgery on his right hand last month after tendons were cut when a golf club snapped in half during a shot, said he'll be ready for the regular-season opener Oct. 2 but there are no guarantees he will play in the preseason.

Panthers: The team is holding Aleksander Barkov, the second overall pick in this year's draft, out of this weekend's prospects tournament with the Lightning, Bruins and Predators in Coral Springs to ensure he'll be ready for the start of the regular season, general manager Dale Tallon said. Barkov, 18, had shoulder surgery in April.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.