TAMPA — If Monday’s training session was the warmup, then Tuesday definitely picked up as the Lightning brought a more physical tone to the second day of training camp .
The group of 33 players — divided into two sessions with Steven Stamkos skating alone for the second-straight day — practiced heavier drills.
They took their normal laps around the sheet and shot on an empty net or two, then it was straight to work as assistant coach Derek Lalonde instructed them on the opening drill.
A goal was set up along each blue line and coaches dumped pucks into the center, forcing players to battle in two-on-two situations for 15 seconds or so. A whistle would blow and the next group would race in.
Sticks clacked and the boards rumbled as players fought for possession. All welcome sounds after a near-four-month hiatus.
In a world where people are instructed to social distance and stay 6 feet apart when possible, the players can’t do so when it comes to practices or games. It’s all necessary to prepare for what’s ahead — an exhibition contest against the Florida Panthers at noon July 29 and four round-robin games before the Lightning’s playoff stint officially begins.
And coach Jon Cooper understands that.
“Regardless, you’re going to have to put your team in a position to play meaningful hockey games and when you do that, there’s going to have to be contact,” Cooper said. “You just can’t run these flow practices, you can’t run these no-touch the whole time because at some point somebody’s coming after you and you have to be prepared for it.”
Defenseman Victor Hedman thinks it’s necessary to bang bodies to get back into hockey shape.
“It’s obviously a little bit of a different approach going into training camp and straight into the playoffs,” he said. “Usually, you have to get a feel for it in the beginning of training camp. You’re usually with 60 guys when you start. But it’s a different normal, but a new normal.”