TAMPA — The Lightning’s first home preseason game — their first contest at Amalie Arena since lifting the Stanley Cup in July — was an uninspiring one.
Yes, the Lightning were working out some kinks Thursday in a 6-2 loss to the Predators, and it’s difficult to put too much into one game because the lines and defensive pairs aren’t what they will be when the regular season arrives.
“Regardless of how everything goes, we’ve got to play with a little more jam,” coach Jon Cooper said. “And that was lacking a little bit.”
Here are five things we learned from the game:
Cirelli’s exit gave a scare
The Lightning’s biggest goal of the preseason is to emerge healthy, so seeing center Anthony Cirelli disappear down the tunnel midway through the second period was unsettling. Cirelli didn’t return, but Cooper played down his injury after the game, saying he wasn’t concerned about its severity.
Cirelli, who scored in the first period, has had an outstanding training camp and was starting to get additional time on the power play to go along with his penalty kill responsibilities. A first-period injury to defenseman Erik Cernak also gave the Lightning — who are already without right-shot defenseman Cal Foote — a scare, too, but Cernak returned in the second.
Waiting for bubble players to separate themselves
Again, it’s early in the preseason, but several players fighting for roster spots — including forwards Alex Barre-Boulet, Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk and Simon Ryfors — played in each of the first two preseason games. We saw all four on the power play Thursday (the Lightning were 1-for-7 with the man advantage), but they haven’t really separated themselves from the pack.
“We’ve seen signs in these first two games and some potential, and then nothing,” Cooper said. “Some of the guys played in the league here before. I’m not saying you’re dipping your toe in the water, but you’re slowly getting yourself ready, and these guys know how to get themselves ready for Game 1. But there are some spots open here.”
Brian Elliott’s debut is complicated
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New backup goaltender Brian Elliott allowed three goals on 14 shots in his Lightning debut, but the defense in front of him didn’t really help. It allowed too many odd-man rushes and open shots. Elliott said he felt “a little out of sorts,” which is normal for the first time getting used to game action. He’s also adjusting to new teammates and a new system, so we’ll know more about how he’s progressing later. As a 14-year veteran on his sixth team, he has earned trust that he’ll be fine.
“There’s so many different things that go into (being a goalie) besides stopping the puck,” Cooper said. “It’s where we are in the (defensive) zone, where guys are on breakouts, just a whole plethora of things that go on. They have to learn players, where they like pucks. And then again, it’s our system and how we want our guys to play. … But I feel like that’s the least of our worries. We’re good in that area.”
Lots of can-do from Dumont
Forward Gabriel Dumont’s name isn’t one you’ll hear often, but he could end up being a valuable depth piece. Signed to a two-way deal in the offseason, the 30-year-old is on his third stint with the Lightning organization. He made some noteworthy contributions on the fourth line Thursday, playing a tough game, recording four hits and two takeaways, and winning 10 of 11 faceoffs.
Amalie is getting back to normal
After the Lightning opened last season with no fans in the stands, Thursday’s game was an encouraging sign that the fan experience is getting back to what it was pre-pandemic. The “Thunderstruck” kid was back on the ice before the game, and there was a brief youth game during the first intermission. The tradition of bubble ball returned in the second intermission. Fans weren’t allowed anywhere near the ice last season.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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