Tampa Bay Lightning set to kick off Training Camp

And so it begins...

After an offseason that saw many faces come and go, the Tampa Bay Lightning are set to take to the ice officially for the first time this weekend at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. For many players and fans, this day could not come quickly enough. New General Manager Steve Yzerman has made his mark on the roster, acquiring star power in Simon Gagne, retooled the bottom two lines (creating serious competition for NHL jobs in the process) and brought in help for the defense that has been one of the weak points the past two years. People in many circles are buying into the moves that Yzerman has made; some even going as far as to call the current roster a playoff team.

When the team takes to the ice Saturday for the first practice of the year, one of the many things that will be different will be the stability that the new regime brings to the table. This is not something that has been lost on the players in the room and you could almost see an easiness amongst some of them who have been taking part in unofficial workouts in Brandon.

"Its great" Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier said recently after a workout, "Mr. Vinik said when he came here that he wanted to start with a chain of command and doing things the right way with class. You could tell when we met him that he was a very humble person and I think it reassures everybody what type of organization we have right now, and that"s where it all starts."

It starts at Mr. Vinik and continues down to Steve Yzerman, who has brought an almost instant credibility back to this team. Coupled with the off season moves he has made, it is easy to see why people are buying into the idea that this team could have on ice success this year. Then there is rookie head coach Guy Boucher. A lot has been made of his new "systems", but looking at the bigger picture, his impact could be greater with how he deals with the players off the ice. And with how things have been around these parts over the past two seasons, that is not a bad thing.

There are no guarantees for success, however. With a new coaching staff and new faces up and down the roster, there is the potential for growing pains along the way. And that is why this camp is so important for a number of different reasons. There is a new system to be learned, new line combination's to try out, new personalities to get used to and jobs to be won.

When looking at the Eastern Conference standings over the past couple years, there has not been much difference between being a playoff team and a cellar dweller, and that is why grasping this system and getting out of the gates quickly could pay large dividends for this team. There is also something to be said for getting that winning feeling back into the locker room again; something that has been missing for far too long.

This training camp still has a lot of questions that need to be answered. You can't talk about a Tampa Bay Lightning team without asking about the goaltending. Who will stand out and grab the available roster spots for the bottom two lines. Will any of the prospects make enough of an impact to make the team? All of these questions can finally begin to get answers over the next few days.

And so it begins with a new feel, a new attitude and hopefully, a new result.

Tampa Bay Lightning Training Camp at a Glance

When: Saturday through Monday

Where: Ice Sports Forum, Brandon

Schedule:

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18

10:00 AM – 10:45 AM North Rink: Team White Practice

South Rink: Team Black Practice

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM North Rink: Scrimmage – Team White vs. Team Black

South Rink: Goalie and Extra Players Practice/ Off-Ice Training

Also on Saturday there will be a live radio broadcast from 10-12 and the first 250 people to arrive each day will get a free t-shirt.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 19

10:00 AM – 10:45 AM North Rink: Team White Practice

South Rink: Team Black Practice

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM North Rink: Scrimmage – Team White vs. Team Black

South Rink: Goalie and Extra Players Practice/Off-Ice Training

12:00 PM – 12:30 PM North Rink: Team Black On-Ice Conditioning

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 20

10:00 AM – 10:45 AM North Rink: Team White Practice

South Rink: Team Black Practice

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM North Rink: Group A Practice

South Rink: Group B Practice

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