BRANDON — Lightning forward Pat Maroon raced down the ice and flicked a shot past goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
As the buzzer sounded, Maroon yelled and tapped his stick along the glass to the amusement of his teammates. It’s not often players get a puck past the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, so when they do, it merits a celebration.
That kind of camaraderie was present Friday at TGH IcePlex in Brandon, where most of the veterans and newcomers gathered for an informal skating session ahead of next week’s opening of training camp.
For about 45 minutes, players went through drills and scrimmages together. Vasilevskiy and new backup goaltender Brian Elliott stood between the posts, while veterans like Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Alex Killorn — all who had offseason surgery — skated around the ice.
Others at the session included Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak, Mikhail Sergachev, Ross Colton, Jan Rutta and Mathieu Joseph, in addition to newcomers Corey Perry, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Andrej Sustr.
Benoit Groulx, coach of the Lightning’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse, said he liked having the veterans skating in close proximity to the prospects. If nothing else, he said, it’s good for morale.
During the first meeting with the prospects, Groulx and the staff showed a clip of Cernak, Colton and former Lightning forward Yanni Gourde (who was selected by Seattle in the expansion draft this summer).
“My message to them was Ross Colton was a draft pick, Erik Cernak was a trade and Yanni Gourde was a free agent,” Groulx said. “They all came to this team, and what Tampa Bay’s looking for is the best players. “It’s not about are you a first pick, a trade, this or that. You’re coming on the ice, and they’re looking for the best players.”
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