Jon Cooper: Lightning have more openings than ever before

Tampa Bay doesn’t have many roster spots available, but the positions within the lineup are still taking shape.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) waits his turn during drills on the first day on the ice at the beginning of training camp at the Ice Sports Forum. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) waits his turn during drills on the first day on the ice at the beginning of training camp at the Ice Sports Forum. DIRK SHADD | Times
Published September 19
Updated September 19

BRANDON — Roster spots aren’t the only competition in Lightning training camp. Players are also jockeying for positioning within the lineup.

“The bottom line is there are spots that are open on this team,” coach Jon Cooper said, “probably more than there have ever been before.”

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There might be only one roster spot available at forward, given the Lightning have eight defensemen on NHL contracts and 12 returning forwards. But within the lineup, the fourth line, third-defensive pairing and second power-play unit are to be determined.

There’s always the chance that someone will shake things up further. Cooper said the Lightning are looking for high competitive drive, someone who can contribute. But that contribution could come in many forms.

“We’re looking for the fit,” he said. “That’s in the players’ hands. It’s for them to show us what they can do.”

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The second power-play unit is almost entirely up in the air. Though the first group was a constant last season, the second’s lineup shifted frequently.

The biggest question is which defenseman will lead the unit. Kevin Shattenkirk and Mikhail Sergachev have experience. Sergachev played on the first unit and Shattenkirk on the other Wednesday.

The Lightning typically put just one defenseman on the power play, but they could consider a traditional three-forward, two-defensemen unit.

“We’re open to having power plays that put the puck in the net,” Cooper said.

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