As the Tampa Bay Lightning took to the ice Sunday for the first time in training camp, Cory Conacher will look to do what he fell just short of doing a year ago, make the team. With a year, and an AHL MVP behind him, Conacher looks to be in a much better position to make a run at a roster spot this time around.
“You have to take the opportunity you have been given,” Conacher told SportsTalkFlorida. “I have been given a great opportunity just to get this invite. I just have to take advantage of it. It’s great to be here. Obviously there are guys here that it is easy to play with. You have got to play with confidence here. Obviously, there is St. Louis and Lecavalier, guys I look up to growing up, and it’s just a pleasure to be here and I just have to take the opportunity, and take advantage of it and hopefully have a good week here.”
After being so close to making the roster last season, Conacher still learned a lot about coming to camp and doing what it takes to get the attention of the coaching staff.
“Be yourself,” Conacher said. “Just be yourself, don’t let your nerves get the best of you. You just have to be confident, and be comfortable here, but not too comfortable. Do the things that got you to this point. For me it’s driving the net and skating well and making those plays and shooting the puck and just being that little honey badger that they call me, and being in the dirty areas and going to net. Hard work takes you a ways and it is going to be important for me to work hard and not take strides off, that’s what the coaching staff looks for.
It’s almost as though Conacher was listening in to Lightning head coach Guy Boucher’s press conference, as Boucher echoed many of those same sentiments to the media after the team’s first practice.
“Here is what I am expecting out of players,“ Boucher said. “I am expecting they come here and be good at what they are already good at. When you come to a training camp, the biggest mistake a player can make is try to be somebody else, and try to focus on what a certain spot on the team needs. He has to be himself, and himself is speed. He has an incredible quickness in executing at a high pace. Obviously he scores, but to me he is relentless. So I am asking him to be out there, and be relentless, and pay the price and he does. So I don’t want him to be different.
Camp Opens To A Good Crowd
The Lightning held fanfest to coincide with the opening of training camp Sunday, with an announced crowd of 5,500 in attendance. Most of Sunday’s practice was made up of practicing break out plays, positioning skills, and of course, lots of conditioning. It sounds like there will be more scrimmages to get back to near game shape as camp now shifts south to Estero over the next four days.