TAMPA — Veteran D Eric Brewer was in an unfamiliar spot Thursday night, a healthy scratch for the season opener against the Panthers at Amalie Arena.
And Brewer, 35, who has played 15 seasons and 965 NHL games, wasn't happy about it.
"It's been a very long time," Brewer said. "It's their decision. I don't like it. We talked about it, and it was not an easy conversation, and there are no details that are going to make it any easier. But that's the way life is."
The Lightning went with 12 forwards and six defensemen, with Victor Hedman-Anton Stralman, Jason Garrison-Radko Gudas and Matt Carle-Andrej Sustr the pairings. Coach Jon Cooper said Brewer was understandably upset, and Cooper didn't like having to tell him about the scratch. But Cooper said that with the Lightning's depth, everybody needs to play and it was just Brewer's turn to sit.
"I'm not really enjoying it," Brewer said. "But we have a good team. Guys are going to play well, and that's where my focus is."
Brewer's role decreased a bit last season; he was used as a third-pairing defenseman. His average ice time of 17 minutes, 33 seconds marked the first time he averaged less than 20 minutes since 2000-01. But Cooper has been pleased with how Brewer has performed.
"He's worked his tail off for us and is probably playing as good a hockey, in the time I've been here, than he was prior to me coming here,'' said Cooper, in his second full season as coach. "The one thing we have is depth on this team, and it was a situation where, if we want to have a chance, we can't just have 20 players. You need 25 because guys get hurt, guys go into slumps, and somebody has to sit.''
Brewer is in the final year of his contract, the Lightning likely wants to get a look at what it has in young players such as Sustr, Gudas and D Mark Barberio, who also was a healthy scratch.
"But on the other side, we'll need Eric Brewer," Cooper said. "And when we do, somebody else is going to have to be in Eric Brewer's position. That's part of being a team, and we need everybody. This isn't a one-man show."
PANIK GONE: RW Richard Panik, placed on waivers Wednesday, was claimed Thursday by the Maple Leafs. Tampa Bay didn't want to lose Panik, whose size (6 feet 1, 208 pounds) and skill made him an intriguing prospect. But Panik never showed the desired consistency and compete level, despite many opportunities, which is why he was a frequent healthy scratch last season and an odd-man out on the 23-man roster.
Though Panik was disappointed his Tampa Bay tenure had to end — he had been in the organization since being a second-round draft pick in 2009 — he was happy for a "fresh start" in Toronto.
"I've just got to bring my 'A' game every night," Panik said. "It was my major problem in Tampa, be consistent, and I'm just going to do my best, and hopefully it's going to work out."
LINING UP: RW Ryan Callahan and Hedman were alternate captains. Those roles will alternate until later this month. … C Vladislav Namestnikov was excited he made the team and his first opening-night roster, having impressed with seven preseason assists. "It's a huge honor." … LW Brenden Morrow was in the lineup, having missed the final three preseason games due to back spasms. … LW Jonathan Drouin (thumb) also was scratched. He did practice, participating in some drills, and was no longer wearing a different-colored jersey.
SPECIAL GUEST: Anne Schleper, a silver medalist with the U.S. women's team at February's Olympics, will be a guest this weekend and join Monday's morning skate.
Contact Joe Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.