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Mikhail Sergachev learning when to keep it simple

Mikhail Sergachev has to show he can make the right decisions, even if it's the boring one.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Mikhail Sergachev has to show he can make the right decisions, even if it's the boring one.

Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev tried to carry the puck through the middle in front of his net Friday night against Nashville.

It led to a turnover and point-blank opportunity for the Predators, with goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy bailing the team out with a big-time save.

"In the first half of the game, I felt like I was trying to do too much," Sergachev said.

It was just one example of the learning curve Sergachev, 19, is experiencing during his audition to make the Lightning roster. Sergachev, a playmaker in junior with Windsor, has to show he can make the right decisions, even if it's the boring one.

"Sometimes, you've just got to flip (the puck) out of the zone, play it simple, rim the puck," Sergachev said Sunday. "In juniors with Windsor, I didn't get used to that. I played my game, I made plays every time. It was different."

Sergachev has still fared well so far through two preseason games, and will get another opportunity today against the Panthers at Amalie Arena (4 p.m., on 970-AM). The Lightning has played Sergachev at least 20 minutes in each of his games, testing him on both special teams.

"It's huge," Sergachev said. "They're giving me every chance." …

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Matt Peca making case for Lightning spot

Matt Peca won nine of 10 faceoffs Friday, a skill the Lightning badly needs.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Matt Peca won nine of 10 faceoffs Friday, a skill the Lightning badly needs.

Center Matt Peca said he didn't read too much into the fact he was the only Lightning player to appear in each of the first three exhibition games.

But Peca, 24, loved it.

"Anytime you get a game, it's a good thing," Peca said. "It gives you another chance to go out there and do your thing."

Peca has done just that, the 5-foot-8 center making an intriguing case to make the opening night roster. Peca impressed in a 10-game callup last season, and has gotten better each preseason game," Cooper said. Peca won nine of 10 faceoffs Friday, a skill the Lightning badly needs.

"To be honest, he looks faster," Cooper said. "He's doing exceptional on the faceoff circle. Just his effort level and everything has been elite since he's been in training camp. He's just one of those guys you can put on the penalty kill, the power play, can take the big draw. You need all those things to find your niche, and he's doing that right now." …

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Ryan Callahan encouraged by his return

Ryan Callahan looked like his old self, delivering two hits, blocking two shots as a key cog on the penalty kill.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Ryan Callahan looked like his old self, delivering two hits, blocking two shots as a key cog on the penalty kill.

Captain Steven Stamkos wasn't the only key Lightning player to make a triumphant return Friday night against Nashville.

Veteran wing Ryan Callahan, 32, played in his first game since Jan. 7, his season ending with a February follow-up procedure on his right hip. Callahan was a bit nervous before the game.

"I was riding the bike before the game and I'm like, 'I haven't had this feeling in a while for a preseason game," Callahan said.

But Callahan was encouraged with how he felt after playing eight minutes, 25 seconds. He looked like his old self, delivering two hits, blocking two shots as a key cog on the penalty kill.

"I felt good," Callahan said. "I felt like I missed nine months the first period or so. It's just timing, getting your legs. But once I got going, I got more comfortable."

When Callahan was trying to play through the hip injury last season, coach Jon Cooper would remember the wing getting fatigued often. Not so much Friday. "He had jump, he had energy," Cooper said.

Callahan said he felt like he could play his physical, gritty game with no limitations. That hadn't happened since he had a labral tear surgically-repaired in June of 2016. …

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NHL All-Star Game logo revealed

The NHL released its official logo for the 2018 All-Star Game, which will be held at Amalie Arena in Tampa Jan. 28. It's fitting there's palm trees, water and a sunset tones in the logo.

Lightning season ticket members will get the chance to to buy tickets for the weekend in a rolling pre-sale which begins late next week. Tickets will start at $205 each and include the skills event on Saturday, Jan. 27 and the All-Star Game.

“The 2018 NHL All-Star Weekend in Tampa Bay, Florida pairs pristine beaches and an energetic, lively city with the speed and excitement of NHL Hockey making it a perfect destination for the mid-season celebration”, said Brian Jennings, NHL Chief Branding Officer and Executive Vice President.

“The brand identity for the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game features rich and vibrant sunset tones, palm trees and water that are synonymous with the region, with subtle border treatments inspired by the decoratively carved tailboards found along the bow that tie back to Tampa Bay’s annual Gasparilla Festival.”

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Steven Stamkos making exhibition debut for Lightning

Steven Stamkos takes a knee while huddling up with the team on the ice during training camp in Brandon last week.

[DIRK SHADD | Times]

Steven Stamkos takes a knee while huddling up with the team on the ice during training camp in Brandon last week.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is curious how he'll feel - and play - in tonight's exhibition game against Nashville.

"I think everybody is," assistant coach Todd Richards said.

Stamkos, 27, hasn't played in a game since tearing the lateral meniscus in his right knee Nov. 15 against Detroit. He has said his knee feels the best it has since surgery, and has had no restrictions since training camp started last week.

But the true test will be a game, something you can't replicate.

"Obviously it's been a while since I've played in a game - I'm anxious and excited to get this one going tonight," Stamkos said. "Training camp has gone extremely well, team has worked hard. I feel better than I thought I would coming in. It's all been positive, and this is just another step in getting prepared for Oct. 6."

Stamkos is one of many big names in the Lightning lineup, as Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Ryan Callahan, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are making their exhibition debuts. So are Chris Kunitz and Alex Killorn. Touted defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev - who was impressive with a plus-3 and a goal in his debut Wednesday - is back in the lineup. …

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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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