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Lightning’s Jon Cooper expects training camp excitement to taper off

The coach says the team will probably show where it's actually at next week, regarding skill level after the four-month hiatus.
Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper, center,  talks with his team on the ice Wednesday.
Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper, center, talks with his team on the ice Wednesday. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jul. 15, 2020|Updated Jul. 16, 2020

TAMPA — For some kids, the best kind of jitters come on the first day of school.

You’re in for a pretty easy schedule, just going over the syllabus. You get to see your friends again. You’re usually decked out with new school supplies and back-to-school clothes.

Then the glamor and excitement wear off a few days in. One teacher has already scheduled your first test, and your favorite shirt now has a stain on it from lunch. Reality has set in.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper thinks the same thing could happen to his team as training camp continues next week.

“There’s been a lot of spirit in these first three days, so it probably looks better than what it’s actually going to be when we get into next week just because of the excitement,” he said Wednesday after sessions at Amalie Arena.

Cooper compared it to a player getting called up for the first time. He has a great NHL debut; he’s excited and all over the place. Then the grind sets in.

The first two days of camp,which began Monday, focused on getting back into a rhythm with fast-paced drills and even some body banging. On Wednesday, the team — divided into two groups — scrimmaged for the first time.

Related: Lightning note importance of respecting the bubble for playoffs to work

All 33 players have been productive on the ice. Even Steven Stamkos, recovering from a leg injury suffered during voluntary workouts, has made a couple of appearances, skating alone between camp sessions Monday and Tuesday.

But the initial giddiness of players who haven’t seen each other in months will wear off, especially because they’re looking at an extended period of togetherness once teams gather in the two hub cities for the postseason, scheduled to begin Aug. 1.

“The first couple of days are probably the easiest just because it’s the first time in four months that they’ve really been able to competitively — with structure and coaching guidance — been able to play,” Cooper said. “I don’t think any of the guys have seen each other, as a group, in four months, so I think just the excitement there will lift at the beginning of camp.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.