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Lightning’s AHL call-ups work on speed, puck-handling

Eight players worked with the assistant coaches in the "aces'" first stand-alone session.
Lightning Jon Cooper talks with his team during practice Friday at Amalie Arena. Cooper said the first few days of camp were split in half to give players plenty of reps as they returned to action following a four-month layoff.
Lightning Jon Cooper talks with his team during practice Friday at Amalie Arena. Cooper said the first few days of camp were split in half to give players plenty of reps as they returned to action following a four-month layoff. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jul. 17, 2020

TAMPA — The Lightning changed things up for Friday, as the coaching staff divided the normal morning and afternoon groups into regular NHL players and the “aces” (players called up from the AHL).

All eight call-ups took the ice in the afternoon with assistant coaches Jeff Halpern and Derek Lalonde and goaltender coach Frantz Jean for about an hour following the morning session’s conclusion.

Forwards Mathieu Joseph, Gemel Smith, Alex Barre-Boulet and Alex Volkov got in plenty of reps with defensemen Cal Foote and Luke Witkowski (who’s on the training camp roster as a forward). Spencer Martin and Scott Wedgewood played between the posts.

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The players worked on speed and puck-handling in small groups. Between pauses in some of the run-throughs, they’d kneel with their sticks against their knees. A whistle would blow, and the players returned to work.

“Thirty-second breather,” Lalonde yelled at one point. “Ten seconds left.”

Coach Jon Cooper said the first few days of camp were split in half to give everyone plenty of reps as the team started back. Cooper expects the coaching staff to mix up how the groups are divided throughout camp.

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“One of the things about going with less players is it gives them more reps,” Cooper said. “But when you get the bigger group of guys, the practice flows a little bit better, it lends itself to more battle stuff and the more structured stuff. Because when you’re going the five-on-five route, you need to give them breaks so when you go with more players, you can obviously do that. It just depends on what we’re working on that day.”

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