Training Camp Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning

By on September 16, 2011

Tampa, Fla. – Tampa Bay Lightning is scheduled to open up training camp in Brandon on Saturday September 17 with very little intrigue or drama as far as the roster is concerned heading into the 2011-2012 hockey season.      This is a product of a team went to game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals last year before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions. 

During the offseason General Manager Steve Yzerman did more about keeping the pieces in place rather than making wholesale changes.   The two biggest priorities for Yzerman was to lock up superstar Steven Stamkos and stud blue liner Eric Brewer on long term deals which he was able to accomplish.

Stamkos contract negotiations offered a great deal of fodder for the National and Canadian newspapers, as they tried to have the Lightning superstar signed in every major market other than back in Tampa.  So with Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, and Hart Trophy Finalist Marty St. Louis the Bolts have their core superstars locked up for the next three years together.

So as training camps open up Rocket Sports & Entertainment is going to offer a quick preview of what the team expects to look like as opening day approaches:

Forwards:  If Coach Guy Boucher continues the trend of using 11 forwards active for game days rather than 12 then most spots on the roster have already been filled.  The top six will be made up of the core superstars Stamkos, Lecavalier, and St Louis to be filled in with stud playoff performer Teddy Purcell, Ryan Malone and you have to believe that Steve Downie is going to get a long look early in the season with the top six forwards.

Last year it was the bottom six guys that provided the spark for this team as the team had some early season injuries which saw the likes of Dominic “Resonate” Moore and Nate Thompson step up and play major roles for this team last season.  Those two guys will be counted on once again to duplicate their efforts this season to go along with newcomer Ryan Shannon signed in a free agent deal from the Ottawa Senators.  

Shannon has some big shoes to fill this season as he slated to replace playoff surprise Sean Bergenheim who signed a deal with the Florida Panthers as a free agent. 

Ryan Shannon: can he be Bergie-like, here Sean Bergenheim (10) and Nate Thompson (44) work in front against the Pens in the 2010-11 play-offs. (photo by Kim Klement/US Presswire)

The rest of the forwards will be filled out of a group Tom Pyatt, Dana Tyrell and Adam Hall.  Hall and Tyrell were part of the “DNA” line last year with Thompson, which was a line that Boucher heaped high praise all year long.  So you have to believe that he might want to continue that again this year.

The offseason did see the loss of Simon Gagne from the top six forwards which were to be expected has he commanded a price that was just too high for the Bolts to fit under the cap. 

Defense:  Locking up Brewer was a key to the offseason for the team as you could see the instant impact he made to the back line after his trade from St Louis before the trade deadline last season.  This to go along with the other core group of defenseman Victor Hedman, Matthias Ohlund, Pavel Kubina, Brett Clark and Marc Andre Bergeron this team has a solid group to battle on the blue line. 

So the team said good-bye to Randy Jones and Mike Lundin who signed contracts elsewhere.

In the offseason the team traded with the Islanders for Bruno Gervais and signed Matt Gilroy as a free agent from the New York Rangers to round out the top 8 guys on one-way contracts.   Real intrigue in camp; who is going to make this team?

Goaltenders:  As the season opens this year Dwayne Roloson will start the year as the oldest player in the NHL.  Roloson was a stud in the playoffs last year and he will come into this season as the team’s clear cut number one guy.  Boucher’s biggest challenge will be to manage his season to make sure roloson is fresh come playoff time. 

To do this Yzerman brought in Mathieu Garon from the Columbus Blue Jackets to serve as the backup to Roloson this season.  Garon is a steady vet goalie who is a perfect number two, as he will be to offer a steady presence in the net on those days when Roloson needs to take a couple of days off , which will be key for his stamina for the Stanley Cup playoff run.

Stay Tuned to Rocket Sports & Entertainment for the season preview and predictions, which will include a fantasy spin, for the upcoming year as the season gets closer to dropping the puck.

TUNE IN TO THE ROCKET SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT SHOW ON THE TAN TALK RADIO NETWORK FOR TOP BOLTS COVERAGE THIS SEASON

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