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Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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Bolts’ Cooper getting buy-in from veterans

TAMPA — So much focus in training camp focuses in on young prospects and how they compete and play during the preseason games while battling for a roster spot.

But even as those looking to earn a roster spot fall under the scrutiny of coaches and management, so, too, do those established players who already have a spot on the opening-night roster.

Everybody is being evaluated, though for different aspects.

“You look for guys that don’t take anything for granted. That’s one thing because players that have been here for a while, you look to see if those guys sit here and have that sense of entitlement that they should be here. It doesn’t matter that there is a new coach and staff in here,’’ Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

“That’s one of the big things I’m looking for but have yet to see any of it. Everybody quite frankly is acting like a rookie. They are all pretty excited.’’

Marty St. Louis, who former Lightning general manager Jay Feaster once said “still believes he could be cut tomorrow,’’ said the preseason games for him serve as an opportunity to regain the feel of the game that has been absent since April.

Saturday against Florida was St. Louis’ first preseason game.

“I’m really trying to get some reps in, which I feel is really important this time of the year,’’ he said. “You need to get the timing back, and in the exhibition games you get thrown into different situations and it’s really about getting back the timing. For me, it’s been 10 or 12 days (since training camp opened) and you want to get some action.’’

With Cooper conducting his first training camp and installing a new system, these early preseason games also offer an opportunity to get accustomed to a new style of play, figuring out the nuances of the new system and understanding the positioning needed to make it work. It’s a building process that begins for veteran players in these preseason games.

“From a team standpoint, you want to implement some of the stuff that (the coaching staff) is preaching to us,’’ right wing Teddy Purcell said. “There is a lot of information in a short period of time. It’s a clean slate this season. He’s implementing everything he wants from us and we are trying to put that into games, too.’’

Steven Stamkos, who played in his second preseason game Saturday, liked to use the early games as a springboard toward starting the regular season off on the right skate, trying to avoid bad habits and feeling good about his game.

“You want to get your feel, your confidence back a little,’’ said Stamkos, who scored a goal in his preseason debut Thursday and had a goal and two assists Saturday against Florida. “You can go the whole preseason and maybe not score and sometimes it gets in your head a little bit if you don’t play well, you don’t play well at both ends of the rink.

“So that’s something I’ve been trying to focus on. We have a new coaching staff and a new mentality about playing a whole 200-foot game and being a little bit more physical. So I obviously still want to produce in these preseason games and feel good heading into the regular season.’’

Cooper said, to this point, he is seeing many of the things he is looking for and expects to see from the guys who will be leading the way, such as Stamkos.

“Are the leaders buying in as well? So far, so good,’’ Cooper said. “If you take a look at the way Steven was playing the other night, he was playing 200 feet of the ice, banging bodies and still scoring goals. So it makes you feel good as a coach that you are preaching that type of a game but it is not taking away from his ability to put the puck in the net.

“So it’s great when the vets are playing as hard as they are.’’

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