ORLANDO — The Lightning wrapped up three days of practice at RDV Ice Plex on Saturday, working on getting the players’ conditioning level back and re-establishing some team concepts.
After being away from the ice for nearly two weeks because of the Olympic break, the past four days of practice helped get the players and staff back into a routine as quickly as possible. That included a grueling five-minute up-and-down skating session that ended Friday’s practice and several drills designed around the team concept.
“It’s a nice reminder to the body and the mind about how hard we are going to have to work over the final 24 games,’’ associate coach Rick Bowness said. “We knew going in with four (defensemen) and nine forwards, the practices would start quick and bog down quickly because of the time off. But I noticed the stamina (got) better, so the conditioning is coming along quickly. Now it’s about quickly getting the skills back in terms of handling the puck and everything like that while addressing team issues.’’
Veteran D Eric Brewer, who has been to the Olympics (2002) and gone through two Olympic breaks, said it doesn’t take long for everything to come back in line.
“You want to get on the ice, you want to get your reps in, but you also look at the schedule and see you have a copious amount of games in a short period of time,’’ he said. “We open with four (in six days), all on the road, so you want to get guys sharp. But you don’t want them to be tired with a few days before the break, so that’s what the coaches look at and adjust accordingly.’’
Hedman showing some interest
D Victor Hedman, a surprise snub for the Swedish Olympic roster, said he has been keeping tabs on the team in Russia but has not watched any of Sweden’s games in full to this point.
With today’s 7 a.m. start when Sweden plays Canada for the gold medal, he’s not sure he’ll wake up in time to watch all of the final.
“Maybe I’ll watch the second and third period, it depends,’’ Hedman said
But that doesn’t mean he’s holding any bitter feelings about being left off the team.
“I know all the guys on the team, and I hope they win (today). They deserve it,’’ Hedman said. “It’s going to be a tough game, but I’m excited for the guys. A lot of great guys on that team, so I hope they get the win.’’
The Lightning are set to officially part ways with G Riku Helenius, the 15th overall pick in the 2006 draft, after he was placed on unconditional waivers on Saturday, Tampa Bay assistant general manager Julien BriseBois confirmed.
If Helenius goes unclaimed, the remainder of his contract will be terminated by the team.
Helenius, 25, is in the second year of a two-year contract that pays him $600,000 this season. But Helenius was passed by Kristers Gudlevskis on the depth chart this season and eventually sent to Florida of the East Coast Hockey League.
Helenius left Florida at one point last month, telling team officials he would not play with the team anymore. He was placed on suspension by the Lightning but eventually reported back to the Everblades while Tampa Bay tried to loan him to another team.
That never materialized, which led to Saturday’s move.
Nuts and Bolts
C Steven Stamkos is scheduled to have his next X-ray on Monday, which will determine whether he will be cleared to return when the season resumes on Thursday in Nashville. ... The team is off today and will resume practice on Monday, which will likely include returning Olympians Gudlevskis (Latvia), Radko Gudas (Czech Republic) and Ondrej Palat (Czech Republic). ... Sami Salo, who won a bronze medal with Finland on Saturday, and captain Marty St. Louis, who plays for gold today with Team Canada, are not expected to return to the team until later in the week.