As Lightning begin training camp practices, opportunities abound

BRANDON — When the Lightning held their first practice of training camp Thursday morning at TGH IcePlex, it was their first time back on the ice as a group since they fell two wins short of their goal of winning a third straight Stanley Cup championship.

It marked 88 days since they dropped Game 6 of the final, their reign ended as they watched the Colorado Avalanche parade around Amalie Arena with the Cup over their heads.

“It feels like eight (days),” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “… Boy does it sting when we get that far and don’t win. The great thing is that 88 days later these players are as hungry as they were the day the season ended, and that’s a good sign for us.”

As the Lightning officially began preparations for what they hope will be another championship run, some familiar faces were missing. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh was traded to Nashville in the offseason, and forward Ondrej Palat and defenseman Jan Rutta departed via free agency. Every offseason marks some change, but those players were integral pieces to Tampa Bay’s back-to-back Cup-winning teams.

With center Anthony Cirelli and defenseman Zach Bogosian wearing red non-contact jerseys and unavailable until late November at the earliest, the Lightning opened camp with more opening-night roster spots to be won than normal, especially on a defense corps that will be without three players who were part of last year’s lineup.

Lightning…

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