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Lightning explore different looks on the power play

Mikhail Sergachev had the opportunity to practice in Nikita Kucherov’s key power play position.
Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, left, battles forward Jack Finley along the boards during training camp.
Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, left, battles forward Jack Finley along the boards during training camp. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jan. 8, 2021|Updated Jan. 8, 2021

BRANDON — The Lightning experimented with different looks on their top power play line in Friday’s practice, giving defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and right wing Alex Killorn time on the unit.

Tampa Bay began the week with a familiar look, with Brayden Point assuming the injured Nikita Kucherov’s role on the right circle, defenseman Victor Hedman up top, captain Steven Stamkos on the left circle, Tyler Johnson in the slot and Ondrej Palat behind the end line.

The most interesting tweak had Sergachev assuming Kucherov’s distributor role on the right circle, which allowed Point to return to the slot and behind the end line where he can buzz around and create scoring opportunities. Sergachev typically has been up top on the second power play line.

Killorn also saw time in the slot, and in the new combination, the Lightning were rotating around more freely than they had been early in the week.

Cirelli happy to be back

Forward Anthony Cirelli, the last of the team’s big-three restricted free agents to re-sign, said he always had faith a deal eventually would get done with the Lightning.

“This is definitely where I want to be,” said Cirelli, who signed a three-year deal at a $4.8 million average annual value on Christmas Eve. “It just had to take some time to work itself out, but I was excited and wanted to get down here early, you know, get the quarantine out of the way and then be ready for camp.”

Cirelli, one of the league’s top defensive forwards and a penalty skill standout, has been getting more ice time this camp on the power play.

“Tony has been such a responsible player for us,” coach Jon Cooper said. “He plays a lot of those minutes that go on when we don’t have the puck that much. … So you never really get to see him as much in those offensive production scenarios, but it is time.”

Cernak, Rutta return

Defensemen Erik Cernak and Jan Rutta participated in their first camp practices Friday after missing the first few days serving quarantines following immigration issues.

Both skated during Thursday’s off day so the team could see where they were physically, and Cooper is confident they’ll be ready for the season opener against Chicago Wednesday.

“It’s just about timing and reps with them, and their conditioning,” Cooper said. “They were both thumbs up (physically), and so now it’s just getting them reps.”

Roster down to 41

The team cut two players, assigning forward Ryan Lohin and defenseman Devante Stephens to the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. The next round of cuts likely won’t occur until after Sunday evening’s second scrimmage so that the team has enough players in camp to field two teams.

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Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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