Cory Conacher’s dream, as he called it, became a reality on Thursday afternoon.
The two forwards and one defenseman, all invited to camp this week from Syracuse of the American Hockey League, won’t be heading back there, at least any time soon.
Instead, each will stick around in Tampa Bay and appear on the Bolts opening night roster for Saturday when the team opens the season against the division-rival Washington Capitals.
“Conacher has done a lot already being league MVP, the leading scorer and winning a championship and has continued to improve,” head coach Guy Boucher said. “With Labrie, it’s the same thing. He’s a good character person and he brings so many intangibles and we want to get bigger. With Aulie, he also brings some size and has continued to improve down in the American League, so they all earned it.”
With those three players included, the Lightning’s 23-man roster is now set.
Tampa Bay will carry 13 forwards: Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Teddy Purcell, Ryan Malone, Benoit Pouliot, Tom Pyatt, Dana Tyrell, Adam Hall, Nate Thompson, BJ Crombeen, Conacher and Labrie.
The Lightning also on Thursday assigned forward Tyler Johnson and defensemen Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas to Syracuse of the AHL, while it placed defenseman Matt Taormina and forwards Kyle Wilson, JT Wyman and Mike Angelidis on waivers. The team will find out Friday at noon whether those players clear.
But, back to those added to Saturday night’s roster.
Conacher, the last cut from last year’s camp, is coming off a career year in the AHL in which he led the league with 39 goals and was second in points with 80 during the 2011-12 campaign.
“My goal was to prove to the management here that I was willing to take the next step,” Conacher said. “There are probably a lot of guys back in Syracuse who would love to be in my spot, so I just wanted to make sure I came down here, worked hard and represented the organization well.”
Labrie, meanwhile, got his first taste of NHL action last season, appearing in 14 games with the Lightning.
At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Labrie adds size and grit to the lineup and is likely to appear either on the third or fourth line, as he also brings a lot of energy.
“If the team needs to get momentum back, I’m ready to jump on the ice,” Labrie said. “That’s all I do, and keep a good vibe in the locker room.”
Like Labrie, Aulie brings a lot of size and sandpaper to the lineup, but in contrast, was hardly a surprise to make the team out of camp.
Aulie was highly-coveted last season after being seen as a big defenseman who could continue to improve within Tampa Bay’s own system.
He played in 19 games with the Bolts last season, and will likely be used as an eighth defenseman at least to start the season.
“This was well done this week,” Boucher added. “There were things we wanted to accomplish, chemistry and getting the guys in game shape, and this is where we wanted to be.”
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