It’s starting to get crowded in Brandon.
With training camp just a few days away from reportedly getting underway, Steven Stamkos returned to the ice for the first time Tuesday since the NHL and NHLPA resolved their 113 day lockout. Stamkos said he realizes just how important the next couple weeks are as the team prepares for opening night.
“You really can’t afford to get off to a slow start in a short season,” Stamkos said. “I think these next couple weeks are going to be huge in getting prepared for the first game.”
Even with the work ahead, Stamkos said the past few months have been frustrating for the players sitting at home, especially when you are as routine oriented as hockey players are.
“It was frustrating,” Stamkos said. “You feel bad for the fans. They were the innocent bystanders throughout this whole process. At the end of the day, this is the business side of the game. To me, this was the first opportunity I had to go through something like this which wasn’t fun. You don’t realize how routine oriented you are as a player and an athlete until you don’t have anything to look forward to every day.”
With the shortened season, the goal has not changed for Stamkos.
“Getting to the playoffs, that’s the key,” Stamkos said. “That’s our goal here as an organization is to get back into the playoffs. We saw what we did a couple years ago. You just have to get in and things can happen. That’s the model that we have this year, we want to be a playoff team. We’ve got to be prepared. It’s going to be a different year. It’s a sprint; there’s no room for taking a couple games off, especially early on. You have got to get off to a good start, and I am excited to get an opportunity to do that.”
Meeting the key for Matt Carle
The big splash move of free agency last summer for the Tampa Bay Lightning was the return of Matt Carle to Tampa for his second stint on the Lightning blue line. Carle was brought in to help strengthen a struggled last year, and to provide an offensive spark to the defense and power play.
The problem for Carle, and all players who signed with new teams this summer is the lack of practice time with their teams due to the soon to end NHL lockout. Players need time to develop chemistry with their teammates, and to learn the system his new team runs through practice and the handful of exhibition games his team plays. That schedule is not an option this year, however, as teams will only get approximately one week to practice together and likely no exhibition games. So the question has to be asked, does being new to a team this year put you at a disadvantage?
“Not necessarily,” Carle said when asked if he is at any disadvantage. “You try to take full advantage before the lockout began. Coach Boucher and I sat down for an afternoon just trying to go over systems. Obviously that was quite a while ago now and there are some other new faces in this locker room. It’s going to be a sprint to the finish here and I think the teams that get off to a good start are going to have the advantage come playoff time.”