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Sunday, Oct 14, 2018
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Lightning journal: Adam Erne looks to stick in Tampa

Forward Adam Erne flicks the puck into the net, but he has no time to celebrate.

He flips around. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Snow flies off his skates. Erne then squares his body as he arrives in the defensive zone, steps away from the net.

Within a second, a puck rockets through the air. Erne steps in front before it can reach the goaltender. The puck ricochets off Erne's shin.

No goal. Erne has successfully completed the drill and is done with it for a minute or two. At least until he goes again.

It's a drill that the Lightning runs many times during practice as players have to hustle the length of the ice to make a play, testing their speed and endurance.

Erne placed an emphasis on both this offseason as he tries to make the Tampa Bay roster out of training camp and become a consistent contributor for the first time since the Lightning drafted him in the second round of the 2013 NHL draft.

He is certainly contributing this preseason. In the Lightning's first preseason win, a 5-1 victory over Nashville on Wednesday, Erne scored twice in the first period.

Splitting time between Tampa Bay and Syracuse, Erne has played 150 AHL games and 49 NHL games.

Improving speed and endurance, Erne said he believed, would help add more games to the NHL column.

"Just being able to go, go, go," Erne said is his goal. "Just being an energizer out there."

He filled that role so well Wednesday that Lightning coach Jon Cooper took notice. Tampa Bay scored only once against Carolina in its preseason game Wednesday.

Cooper said Erne was a big part of that, picking up the first assist after displaying speed in the neutral zone.

"He gets a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger, a little bit faster (each year)," Cooper said.

And a little bit more confident. At least that's what F Yanni Gourde will tell you. Gourde, who spent two years with Erne in Syracuse, has seen it from the beginning of Lightning training camp.

"He is feeling more comfortable with the puck," Gourde said. "I think he is playing with a lot of confidence, and that's huge when you do that."

Gourde added that Erne impressed him with how well he played last year. In 2017-18, Erne scored three goals and one assist in 23 games for Tampa Bay. He added 12 goals and 14 assists in 41 games in Syracuse.

But ask Erne about what he wants to improve, and he will answer the very thing at which Gourde has already seen improvement. Erne said he wants to become more confident so that he can see the ice better and make more plays.

He expects more reps and time to help improve that confidence.

If he can, he might just find himself slotted as a regular on the Tampa Bay roster. Playing so well that the coaches have to find a spot for you on the roster is one way to make it. However, there are two spots open on the fourth-line, anyway, because Chris Kunitz left in free agency and Ryan Callahan is nursing a shoulder injury expected to keep him away from live game action until November.

"It's an everyday process of proving yourself and showing consistency," Erne said. "But I feel good about my camp so far, and that's all I can do for now."

Andreoff a busy man

If F Andy Andreoff was not in tip-top shape before this week, he will be by the end of the week.

Andreoff played his third preseason game this week at Nashville and scored his first goal of the preseason and had an assist  in the win. Andreoff, whom the Lightning acquired via trade from the Kings in the offseason, is the only Tampa Bay player to play in all three preseason games.

Andreoff brushed it off Wednesday before the game against the Hurricanes.

"You go through those back-to-back games when you don't get much sleep," he said. "You just have got to get the legs going in pregame skate and just get ready for the whole day."

Andreoff played in 159 games over four years in Los Angeles. He is making a quick impression in Tampa, though, and not just because of his performance against the Predators.

"In the couple games he has played, when something has been going awry out there, he's the first one to back his teammates," Cooper said. "You love to see that in a player, especially coming into an organization where he doesn't know anybody. For him to have that kind of mentality, you really like that in a guy."

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