Lightning pushes pace early in training camp

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson works to make a play on the ice during training camp at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on Friday morning (09/23/16).
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson works to make a play on the ice during training camp at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on Friday morning (09/23/16).
Published Sept. 25, 2016

TAMPA — C Brian Boyle's practice ended a little early Saturday after the heel of D Braydon Coburn's stick blade caught him in the nose during a 1-on-1 drill.

Boyle was fine — no hard feelings, just some pain and blood on his jersey.

"It's going to happen sometimes," Boyle said, smiling. "The guys had a good chuckle out of it."

But the friendly fire is an example of how intense, and fast-paced, Lightning training camp has been early. Associate coach Rick Bowness told the players camp would be tough, hoping to get them up to the same speed as the 12 who will soon return from the World Cup. He wasn't kidding.

"Skating-wise, conditioning on ice, this is by far the hardest camp in my 12 (NHL) years," veteran D James Wisniewski said. "They said guys are playing games (in the World Cup), you've got to rock 'n' roll. I don't even know if you work this hard in a game."

There hasn't been much system installment, mostly skating and battle drills, specifically in the defensive zone. Bowness — running camp until coach Jon Cooper returns from the World Cup, where he was an assistant with North America — consistently pushes the pace, opening the second half of practice Saturday by saying, "Punch the clock, boys. Punch the clock."

"You can't do those things unless you know that your players have been committed to a summer conditioning program," Bowness said. "That's a tough way to start a training camp. They were told (Thursday) it was going to be a tough camp, and they're in good shape, so there's no reason why we couldn't get at it."

JOHNNY BE GOOD: C Tyler Johnson didn't take to Twitter, as Penguins F Phil Kessel and others famously did, to express his disappointment in the U.S. World Cup performance. But after the Americans wrapped up an 0-for-3 tournament last week, Johnson said he wished he could have helped. Many have suggested that Johnson, a 2015 All-Star, should have made the team, including C Steven Stamkos (Canada), who said, "You'd think a tournament like (the World Cup) would be the type of stage where he'd excel."

"I think everyone can say they're disappointed at the fact that (the Americans) didn't do as well as they probably could have," Johnson said. "I wish I could have been there. I wish I could have played, but that's (USA Hockey's) decision. That's what's great about our country is we have a lot of good players, good, quality players. They went one route, so hopefully next time I'm playing better so I can make it."

MEDICAL MATTERS: RW Ryan Callahan (hip surgery) participated in the first two practices, though he hasn't been cleared for contact. It's a promising sign that Callahan, targeting a mid-November return, could be back sooner. Callahan won't be part of today's Fan Fest scrimmages, however.

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FAN FEST: The players who have returned from the World Cup — including G Ben Bishop (United States), RW Jonathan Drouin (North America) and LW Ondrej Palat (Czech Republic) — will not be at Fan Fest at Amalie Arena. They're expected to join camp this week.

NUTS AND BOLTS: Michelle Gingras, TV feature reporter for the Lightning and Fox Sports Sun, won't return this season. She heads to New York to pursue other opportunities.