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Morning after: Takeaways from Lightning exhibition

The Lightning's Erik Cernak, left, congratulates Adam Erne (73) following Erne's goal against the Carolina Hurricanes.

AP photo

The Lightning's Erik Cernak, left, congratulates Adam Erne (73) following Erne's goal against the Carolina Hurricanes.

For the Lightning, there was a lot to like in Wednesday's 4-3 exhibition win in Carolina.

And not just the play of touted defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

Sure, Sergachev, 19, delivered with a goal and plus-3 in a team-high 22:16, a great way to start his audition for a spot.

But other players stood out, too.

*Forward Adam Erne scored a goal for the second straight game. Both came in front of the net, this one a spin-and-shoot. Erne, who had an extended callup late last season, is in a tough battle to crack the roster.

"I'm just trying to prove myself," Erne said. "Nothing is set in stone in any way for anybody, I don't think this year. A lot of jobs up for grabs. I'm just trying to earn a spot."

Erne said he gained a lot of confidence last season, getting a better feel for the league. "He's getting better," coach Jon Cooper said. "That's what Adam can do is put the puck in the net. He's got chances both nights and he's done it."

*Forward Boris Katchouk carried over a strong performance in Tuesday's game into Wednesday. Katchouk scored a goal, and was all over the ice. He's heading back to juniors most likely, but made a good impression. …

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Ryan Callahan: Brian Boyle will beat cancer diagnosis

Ryan Callahan spoke with Brian Boyle, pictured, a few days before the news broke Tuesday, and believes he'll win this battle.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Ryan Callahan spoke with Brian Boyle, pictured, a few days before the news broke Tuesday, and believes he'll win this battle.

Ryan Callahan has been friends with Brian Boyle for a long-time, the two veterans playing together for seven years between the Rangers and the Lightning.

So when Callahan, 32, found out a couple days ago that Boyle, 32, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, the news hit him hard.

"Honestly, just shocking," Callahan told the Tampa Bay Times Wednesday.

The type of bone-marrow cancer, detected through blood work in Boyle's camp physical, was caught early, and can largely be treated by medication.

Callahan spoke with Boyle a few days before the news broke Tuesday, and believes he'll win this battle.

"He was as positive as he can be," Callahan said of Boyle. "It's a tough situation, but he's in the right frame of mind. And typical Boyler, he says he's going to play opening night. I think that's a great attitude to have and I know he's a guy that'll beat this."

Boyle's father, Artie, beat terminal kidney cancer several years ago, with the former Lightning center calling him a "living miracle." …

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Taylor Raddysh among first Lightning camp cuts

Lightning forward prospect Taylor Raddysh was among the first cuts in camp.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning forward prospect Taylor Raddysh was among the first cuts in camp.

Lightning forward prospect Taylor Raddysh was among the first cuts in camp, the team trimming its roster by six on Wednesday.

Raddysh, 19, will be reassigned to his junior team (Erie Otters), where he racked up 42 goals (109 points) in 58 games last season. Raddysh joined forward Alexey Lipanov, this year's third round pick, who will be heading to Barrie (OHL), Chris Paquette (Peterborough, OHL) and defenseman Oleg Sosunov (Moose Jaw), whom the Times profiled this morning.

Goalie Joseph Raaymakers and forward Kevin Hancock were released from their camp tryout.

The fact Raddysh was cut shouldn't be a surprise, but the fact it came so soon (after one exhibition game Tuesday) probably wasn't expected. Lipanov impressed in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Carolina, named the game's No. 3 star, but like most with junior eligibility left, was reassigned.

There are a few with junior eligibility left in camp, including former first-round pick Brett Howden, who plays tonight, and Libor Hajek (also in the lineup).

Assistant GM Julien BriseBois expects another round of cuts this weekend, when the Lightning plays in two games (both at home) Friday and Sunday.

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Mikhail Sergachev to debut for Lightning tonight

Touted prospect Mikhail Sergachev will make his exhibition debut tonight in Carolina.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Touted prospect Mikhail Sergachev will make his exhibition debut tonight in Carolina.

For touted prospect Mikhail Sergachev, his audition to make the Lightning takes another big step tonight in his exhibition debut in Carolina.

Sergachev, 19, acquired from Montreal in June in the Jonathan Drouin blockbuster, will be given every chance to make the opening night roster. But Sergachev has to show during the preseason that he can handle the load. If Sergachev isn't on the Lightning roster, he'll have to return to juniors for another year in Windsor.

There are other intriguing names in tonight's lineup, including Brayden Point, Slater Koekkoek, Jake Dotchin. Koekkoek is in a fight for a spot on the deep blueline. Brett Howden, a former first round pick, is getting in his first game of the preseason, as are Erik Cernak and Mitchell Stephens.

Veteran backup goalie Peter Budaj is scheduled to be in net.

Several players are set to play for the second straight night, including veterans J.T. Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov, Gabriel Dumont and Cory Conacher. Prospects Boris Katchouk, Libor Hajek, Cal Foote, Anthony Cirelli will play again.

The game is at 7 p.m. in Carolina. Not on TV, but on radio at 970-AM. …

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Cooper on slashing crackdown: 'The game is no fun'

Adam Erne (73) checks Carolina Hurricanes Jake Chelios (76) into the boards.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Adam Erne (73) checks Carolina Hurricanes Jake Chelios (76) into the boards.

There's no question the NHL has made it an emphasis to crack down on slashing this season.

"What? I didn't notice," Lightning coach Jon Cooper joked.

You can't blame Cooper for his sarcasm, especially when it came after nine slashing penalties were called in Tampa Bay's 2-1 loss to Carolina in Tuesday's exhibition opener. It made for 25 minutes of special teams, nearly half the game.

Cooper understands what the league is trying to do, stemming from several incidents last year including Ottawa's Marc Methot's gruesome finger injury following a Sidney Crosby slash.

But it still makes for a tough adjustment, one that Cooper believes will change the game. …

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Lightning Strikes! podcast: Preseason storylines to watch

Will defenseman Mikhail Sergachev make the Lightning?

DIRK SHADD | Times

Will defenseman Mikhail Sergachev make the Lightning?

In this episode of our Lightning Strikes podcast, Joe Smith and columnist Tom Jones set up the preseason with storylines to watch, as well as expectations for the season. Will defenseman Mikhail Sergachev make the team? Are there any veterans who are in danger of losing a spot? How will Steven Stamkos look in exhibitions? Listen below:

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Cal Foote ready for Lightning exhibition debut

Adam Foote, left, said there have been a few eye-opening moments in his first NHL training camp, but is feeling more comfortable every day.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Adam Foote, left, said there have been a few eye-opening moments in his first NHL training camp, but is feeling more comfortable every day.

Just three months ago, defenseman Cal Foote was getting his name called in the first round of the NHL Draft.

And now Foote, 18, is preparing for another milestone, his first NHL exhibition tonight. The Lightning hosts Carolina at 7:30 p.m.

"Kind of a dream my whole life, my whole childhood," Foote said. "So it’s going to be a fun moment, that’s for sure."

Foote, son of long-time NHL defenseman Adam Foote, said both of his parents will be in town for the game. He's wearing No. 52, his dad's number.

"He pretty much taught me everything I know about the game," Foote said. "To be arond him, he's helped me a ton. I'm very fortunate."

 

Foote said there have been a few eye-opening moments in his first NHL training camp, but is feeling more comfortable every day. The key for the 6-foot-4 defenseman is improving his quickness.

"He looks good - you can see why he's a first-rounder," Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness said. "He moves laterally very well. He reads the play, moves the puck well. He seems to be very poised out there. He just needs to keep playing." …

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Oleg Sosunov brings intrigue to Lightning exhibition opener

Oleg Sosunov's ability to skate for his size, his reach, and his style have drawn comparisons to Zdeno Chara.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Oleg Sosunov's ability to skate for his size, his reach, and his style have drawn comparisons to Zdeno Chara.

When Hall of Famer Phil Esposito first saw Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov, he joked he thought the 6-foot-8 Russian would hit the ceiling at Amalie Arena.

But Esposito also felt Sosunov reminded him of a young Zdeno Chara, the long-time Bruins defenseman.

Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness, who coached Chara with the Islanders at the beginning of his career, could see that.

"(Sosunov) can move quicker than (Chara) did," Bowness said. "(Chara) is a great player, a Hall of Famer, so I'm not knocking him. But (Sosunov) can move quick for his size. The rest? We'll see."

Sosunov is one of the more intriguing prospects in the Lightning lineup for tonight's exhibition opener against Carolina (7:30 p.m., Amalie Arena). Bowness said they want to see how he adapts to the smaller ice surfaces, having just come from Russia to North America.

While it's way too early - and unfair - to compare Sosunov to Chara, the similarities don't just end at their size. …

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Lightning's Slater Koekkoek: 'I've got something to prove'

Slater Koekkoek faces extensive competition on the blueline, which is at least eight-deep.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Slater Koekkoek faces extensive competition on the blueline, which is at least eight-deep.

This time last year, it was Slater Koekkoek's job to lose.

Koekkoek, 23, the former Lightning first-round pick, was coming off an impressive performance in the run to the Eastern Conference Final. The smooth-skating defenseman did make his first opening night roster - "a dream come true" - but it didn't last long. After a so-so camp, Koekkoek was scratched the first week, then sent to AHL Syracuse, where he spent the second half of the season.

Now, Koekkoek enters a make-or-break season, at least with the Lightning. He signed a "show-me," one-year, $800,000 deal this summer, and faces extensive competition on the blueline, which is at least eight-deep. Touted defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev, 19, acquired in the Jonathan Drouin trade, will be given every chance to make the team.

Koekkoek, who overcame three shoulder surgeries to make the NHL, knows he's in another fight.

"I've got something to prove," Koekkoek said. "I was in Syracuse last year, that's not where I wanted to be. I thought I did that in the (AHL) playoffs, I showed that I had something to prove." …

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Anton Stralman remains sidelined in Lightning camp

Anton Stralman was back on the ice Sunday but did not participate in practice.

JOE SMITH | Times

Anton Stralman was back on the ice Sunday but did not participate in practice.

Lightning veteran defenseman Anton Stralman did not participate in team practice for the third straight day.

But at least Stralman was back on the ice.

Stralman lightly skated and stickhandled on his own Sunday in a red non-contact jersey while his group practiced on the other sheet of ice at the Ice Sports Forum. Stralman had not skated in the first two days of practice, with the team calling him day-to-day. The Lightning hasn't' disclosed what ails the Swede.

But coach Jon Cooper said Stralman should be rejoining team practice in a couple days.

"The encouraging part is he's back on the ice," Cooper said.

 

It's still early in camp, so there shouldn't be too much of a concern, as long as Stralman's absence isn't extended. Stralman joined veterans in Nashville last week on the evacuation trip, where there were informal skates.

More notes from Sunday's practice: …

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Esposito on Drouin: 'I didn't think he wanted to be here'

"(Jonathan) Drouin is a fabulous player," Phil Esposito said. "Personally I didn't think he wanted to be here. I saw it in his eyes, the way he played."

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP

"(Jonathan) Drouin is a fabulous player," Phil Esposito said. "Personally I didn't think he wanted to be here. I saw it in his eyes, the way he played."

Many Lightning fans got their first up-close look at touted defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev during Saturday's Fan Fest at Amalie Arena.

There are likely some fans that still lament losing dynamic wing Jonathan Drouin, dealt to Montreal for Sergachev in late June.

But Lightning founder Phil Esposito reassured fans they're going to end up liking this trade on Tampa Bay's side.

"Drouin is a fabulous player," Esposito said Saturday in a Q&A in front of fans between practice at Amalie Arena. "Personally I didn't think he wanted to be here. I saw it in his eyes, the way he played. I thought (GM Steve Yzerman) made the right move. (Drouin) is going to love being in Montreal, that's where he's from. But he has no idea the pressure that's going to be on him if he doesn't produce. He has no idea.

"I wish him well. But I think in the long run, people will be very, very pleased with Sergachev." …

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Jeff Vinik likes Lightning's chances for outdoor game

Lightning owner Jeff Vinik told NHL commissioner Gary Bettman the first time they met that every time they saw each other, he'd ask about Tampa hosting an All-Star Game.

It worked, with Tampa hosting the 2018 All-Star Game in January at Amalie Arena. So now Vinik's focus is on bringing an outdoor hockey game to the area, which would likely involve Raymond James Stadium.

And Vinik said he likes their chances.

"We're having a lot of conversations about it," Vinik said at Fan Fest Saturday. "Some people's immediate reaction is the climate is not good for an (outdoor) game. If you look at some of the conditions in Denver where they had some games, the weather in Tampa Bay is really close to that in February that time of year.

"We're going to keep pushing hard for it, I feel pretty good about our chances. Every time I see Gary I'll be asking."

NHL executive VP Steve Mayer has told the Tampa Bay Times that Tampa is a candidate for a future outdoor game, and the logistics could work. "Without saying what we would consider, I think there's nothing that they couldn't do in Tampa," Mayer said.

The Lightning has studied the subject, and Vinik agrees. …

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Lightning top line with Stamkos and Kucherov reunites

Dirk Shadd | Times

When Lightning captain Steven Stamkos saw the training practice groups Thursday, he hoped it meant he'd get reunited on a line with Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov.

And Stamkos, 27, got his wish on Friday's first full day of practice at the Ice Sports Forum.

The trio felt the same chemistry that made them one of the hottest lines in hockey in the beginning of last seasos. Stamkos (nine goals, 11 assists) and Kucherov (eight goals, 13 assists) were among the league's top scorers through 17 games until Stamkos got hurt Nov. 15 in Detroit.

Keep in mind, it's way early, and lines can change like the weather. But the top line will be one to watch as camp continues, especially since it involves two of the team's best players.

"I think we are just able to read off each other," Stamkos said. "We're pretty smart hockey players and have some speed, skill. And with the amount of success we had earlier in the year, it just felt like there was no guessing on the ice. We knew if one guuy was in trouble, the other guy was going to be close for support and the other guy would be on the other side of the ice. …

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Lightning enter camp with 'something to prove'(w/video)

"The guys are anxious to get back and prove to ourselves and everyone we're not gonna let what happened last year happen again," Steven Stamkos said.

DIRK SHADD | Times

"The guys are anxious to get back and prove to ourselves and everyone we're not gonna let what happened last year happen again," Steven Stamkos said.

You could sense a determined, motivated group of Lightning players as they reported Thursday for the start of training camp.

The long summer - a result of missing the playoffs for the first time in four years - gave them a lot to think about.

And they vowed that it won't happen again.

"Guys are hungry," veteran wing Ryan Callahan said. "I think we've got something to prove."

This same group went on back-to-back lengthy playoff runs, making it to the Stanley Cup Final just three years ago, and the Eastern Conference Final two years ago. Having the extended break allowed many players to get healthier, especially captain Steven Stamkos and Callahan.

"The guys are anxious to get back and prove to ourselves and everyone we're not gonna let what happened last year happen again," Stamkos said. "Last year was unacceptable."

 

The talk is the easy part, the Lightning knows it has to prove it on the ice. A focus is getting off to a better start, something that's plagued them the past two seasons. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy notes the Lightning was one of the best teams in the league down the stretch, but an 18-6-5 run to end the season fell a point short of a playoff spot. …

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Hedman proud of Lightning's donations to hurricane relief efforts

"I’m very proud to wear the bolt on my chest," Victor Hedman said.

DIRK SHADD | Times

"I’m very proud to wear the bolt on my chest," Victor Hedman said.

When you think of all the money donated from Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his wife, Penny, and from some of the former Lightning, well, D Victor Hedman said, “I’m very proud to wear the bolt on my chest.”

After donating $1 million to the Hurricane Harvey relief effort in Southeast Texas, the Vinik’s partnered with the Florida Panthers, the NHL and the NHL Players Association for a $2.7 million donation of the Hurricane Irma relief effort.

What’s more, former Lightning Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier and Dave Andreychuk donated $10,000 each to the Hurricane Irma relief effort.

“You’re really proud as a member of this organization to see that,” Hedman said this morning during his pre-camp press conference.

The Lightning skate Friday in Brandon during the first workout of training camp.

Hedman arrived in Tampa on Tuesday night from his home in Sweden, his trip delayed several days by the storm. He said he followed the storm closely from afar, wondering like most of us, which path it would eventually take after it turned north.

“The only thing I was worried about was all the people in the path of a very strong hurricane,” Hedman said.  …

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