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Saturday, Sep 23, 2017
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Rookie season an adjustment for Connolly

TAMPA - One game after being a healthy scratch for the first time, rookie LW Brett Connolly was back in the lineup Saturday. It's all part of the growing process for the 19-year-old, similar to what C Steven Stamkos went through as a rookie and what happened with Boston's Tyler Seguin — the No. 2 overall pick in the same draft as Connolly — who was a healthy scratch several times last season. Both players responded in their sophomore seasons. Stamkos led the league with 51 goals, and Seguin currently leads the Bruins with 19 goals. Seguin is "a high draft pick who struggled to learn to play defense, and I'm going through the same thing that I have to learn," Connolly said. "You can't be a one-way player; you have to be good in the defensive end and then your offense will come. I know I have to get a lot better in my own end."
Connolly made two good defensive plays on the same shift in the first period Saturday. He cut off a pass through the slot, then came around to pick a puck off the stick of a Panthers player to start a rush up the ice that led to a Lightning power play. "He understands it," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "It's these moments that you get as a 19-year-old that they need to live through and learn and take a breather sometimes." Malone skates again LW Ryan Malone, who has been out since suffering an unspecified upper-body injury against Phoenix on Jan. 21, skated for the second consecutive day. Saturday's game was the fourth in a row that Malone has missed. He said he has been able to continue working out in the gym and has not been limited by the injury, which he said is not a concussion. Boucher said Malone is "doubtful" for the finale of the homestand against Los Angeles on Tuesday. However, with the recent improvements Malone has felt, he could be ready to return during a three-game road trip that begins Thursday against the Rangers. Bergenheim ailing LW Sean Bergenheim, one of last season's Lightning playoff heroes who signed a four-year deal with the rival Panthers in the offseason, has been hampered by injuries in his first year with Florida. Bergenheim has eight goals, including the game winner Friday against Winnipeg, but has been limited to 30 games entering Saturday due to two stints on the injured list. He missed seven games at the end of October and 12 games from Dec. 29 to Jan. 18 with injuries in the same area as the one that kept him out of the final two games of the Eastern Conference finals last season against Boston. "It has been more frustrating than previous seasons for me because I felt both times just before I got injured, I felt like things were picking up and I felt good on the ice," Bergenheim said. "So there have been a few setbacks, but right now I feel good. ... I hope it's all behind me." Bergenheim has gone through a similar experience on the ice this season that he went through last year with Tampa Bay in terms of meshing with a team full of new faces holding a division lead. "I felt what I learned last year and the experience I got that I grew a lot, probably more than any other year in the NHL," he said. Nuts and Bolts D Marc-Andre Bergeron (back) is close to returning and could be ready next week, Boucher said. … C Vinny Lecavalier has scored 20 or more goals in 12 consecutive seasons. … Florida G Brian Foster made his NHL debut. … The Lightning will be off for today before returning to practice on Monday. … Tampa Bay finished the season 4-1-1 against Florida, only the second time the Lightning have won at least four games in a season against the Panthers. Erik Erlendsson
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