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Thursday, Jul 20, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning's Hedman glad to be back on home ice

BRANDON - As somebody who enjoys traveling, Victor Hedman found aspects of his three-month stint playing in the Kontinental Hockey League to his liking. Other parts didn't exactly measure up. Hedman returned to Tampa on Wednesday to join pre-camp workouts with his Lightning teammates in preparation for the shortened NHL season after the lockout was settled over the weekend. While he enjoyed his time playing top-level hockey and seeing some parts of the Far East while living in Kazakhstan, he does have a preference. "It was obviously different compared to here, but the city (Astana) is almost newly renovated, they want to be a centerpiece in Asia,'' Hedman said. "Where I lived, the condo was only two years old so it was high-class and there were a couple of good restaurants. So overall it was really good compared to a lot of the other cities.
"And there are some cities there that are a little scary to go to, with the hotels with cockroaches in the room and obviously a little different in some of the other cities, but overall it was pretty good, there were a lot of great cities, a good experience.'' But when he heard that the NHL lockout had been resolved, he was on the phone right away to make plans to return to Tampa. "It was just a great experience,'' Hedman said. "You get to see a lot in your life, and to get to see that part too was nice, but I prefer this part'' of the world. While playing in the KHL, Hedman had the ability to continue playing and developing during the lockout. And though he is set to enter his fourth NHL season, he just turned 22 on Dec. 18. That time playing for Barys, which also included former Lightning players Brandon Bochenski and Andrew Hutchinson, proved beneficial for Hedman, who signed a five-year extension last season. In 26 games, he recorded 19 goals and 20 points while earning a nomination for the KHL All-Star game, which is scheduled to be played Sunday. "My offensive game, I think, got a real good boost playing almost two minutes every power-play,'' Hedman said. "I played a lot of minutes, so that's good for my offensive game. I think it's a little bit more physical here and I need to get back like I was last year because I think I improved in that part of the game. Maybe it fell off a little bit over there because it's big ice, and not as physical so I need to get back my mean streak and improve on my overall game. I think I have picked up my game to a higher level, so I'm just excited to step on the ice to prove it in the NHL too.'' That has Hedman feeling good about where his game is coming into the season. Though his stats with Tampa Bay don't necessarily reflect how much Hedman has improved, the No. 2 overall pick in 2009 improved by leaps and bounds in many areas of his game. Putting up some offensive numbers this season might start to show he is rounding out his game. "I think we have a great team going into the season, and just for me to be a part of that is huge,'' Hedman said. "I want to be a key player on this team, and it's up to me to prove to the coaches that I have improved and I can have a high level throughout the whole season even though it's only 48 games. I want to be one of those guys who makes a difference, but at the same time, I want to be relentless all over the ice both in the offensive zone and the defensive zone, blocking a lot of shots and just do what I do to do whatever it takes to win hockey games. "That's what I'm going to bring to this team and bring to the table each night.''  

eerlendsson@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7835 Twitter: erlendssonTBO

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