BRANDON — Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph filled many roles when needed last season, and because he spread out his ice time between different lines, he enters training camp more comfortable than in past years.
The Lightning will count on the 24-year-old for more ice time with the departures of Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. Which line he will get that increased playing time on remains to be seen. Joseph, whose speed can be game changing, spent most of last season on the fourth line with Ross Colton, who is slated to center the team’s rebuilt third line.
Joseph spent the past two training camp practices working on the second line with center Anthony Cirelli and power forward Alex Killorn, with captain Steven Stamkos lining up with Colton and veteran Corey Perry on the wing. Joseph opened camp working on the Colton line.
“Playing with different guys is always good for having early chemistry in a camp like this,” Joseph said. “It’s easy for me to play with Cirelli. I’ve played with him before, and me and Ross last year played a lot together. And it’s much more comfortable going on the line with the guys like that when you have already been playing with them.”
Joseph played all 56 regular-season games, scoring 12 goals with seven assists, and four of his six playoff appearances were in the Stanley Cup final, where he tallied a pair of assists. He also could see some time on the penalty kill unit as Gourde, Coleman and Goodrow were all PK contributors.
Preseason schedule starts with a flurry
Following Monday’s off day, the Lightning will open their preseason schedule with four games over a five-day stretch, starting with a road contest Tuesday in Carolina, then games on consecutive days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday).
That’s quite a gauntlet. There aren’t many roster spots up for grabs, but the Lightning will have to satisfy players needing ice time to get ready for the regular season while getting a closer look at younger and bubble players in game situations.
“You want that balance of guys getting reps and then the new guys getting opportunity,” assistant coach Derek Lalonde said. “There’s some guys who have really turned some heads in the rookie tournament and you want to reward them with games. Just the three in a row kind of make it a little tougher matrix.”
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