Noticeably absent from those invited to the Tampa Bay Lightning's abbreviated training camp was former first-round draft pick Brett Connolly.
The sixth overall pick in 2010 made the roster out of camp last season as a 19-year-old. He struggled in making the jump from junior hockey to the NHL after missing most of the 2009-10 season with a pair of hip injuries.
Connolly appeared in 68 games last season, spent two weeks playing for Team Canada at the World Juniors and was a healthy scratch at times down the stretch, finishing with four goals and 15 points.
This season, playing for the Syracuse Crunch, Tampa Bay's affiliate in the American Hockey League, Connolly has begun to show why he was such a high draft choice. In 36 games, he is second on the team with 35 points and third with 15 goals while leading the league with six game-winning goals.
Though Connolly figured to possibly be in the running for a roster spot with the Lightning, Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman feels it's best for Connolly to remain with the Crunch and continue to develop.
"We are extremely pleased with his development and his game continues to evolve. He's getting stronger and we are real happy with the amount of ice time that he is getting and he's scoring on a regular basis,'' Yzerman said.
"We felt at this time, for our needs in Tampa and the role that he would play here, he's better off playing there. He's playing a lot of minutes in all situations and he's getting better. So I'm very comfortable with where he is right now. He's going to be a good player for us. I just think he needs to play, and play a lot.''
Connolly said he appreciates the reasoning, even if it was difficult to hear during a conversation with Yzerman on Saturday.
"Obviously I'm disappointed with the decision, but I understand and am going to continue doing the things that I am doing,'' he said. "It's all part of the process and in the next few years looking back at this moment, I will realize that it was probably the best thing for me moving forward in my career.
"We have a great team in Syracuse and I'm having so much fun going to the rink every day. Every day I'm getting better.''
Paying their respect
Today's schedule was shifted to accommodate several Lightning players who flew to Boston to attend the funeral of Katie Moore, the wife of former Tampa Bay C Dominic Moore, who passed away from a rare form of liver cancer last week.
Players flew on Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's private jet Sunday and will return today on the same plane, which will take them to the airport in Fort Myers in time for the scheduled 6:15 p.m. practice at Germain Arena in Estero.
"It's a tough time for him and his family, so it's just to pay our respects. He's a friend of ours and so was his wife,'' Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "So the least we can do is go up there to support him in tough times.''
Moore spent a season-plus with Tampa Bay and was a big part of the Lightning's run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2011 before he was dealt to San Jose in February. It was while with the Sharks that Moore's wife was diagnosed with the disease.
Thirteen players will attend the funeral.
"I think it's important for all the guys that are going to support Dom,'' Marty St. Louis said.
Nuts and Bolts
The Lightning added forwards JT Wyman and Tyler Johnson as well as defensemen Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas to the training camp roster, making it 30 players currently with the team. The four added from Syracuse arrived Sunday afternoon after playing the previous night and are expected to skate with the team starting today. … Yzerman said he does not plan to sign any free agents before Saturday's season opener. … New RW B.J. Crombeen accidentally gave away his training camp jersey following practice during a signing session for contest winners on the ice. … The Lightning will have five games televised on NBC Sports Network: Feb. 5 at Philadelphia, Feb. 24 at Pittsburgh, March 4 at Pittsburgh, March 18 vs. Philadelphia and April 11 vs. Pittsburgh.