It was a few years ago that Patrick Sharp decided to get serious about becoming fit, and the results have been noticeable.
Sharp won the annual fitness award at Blackhawks training camp and has been one of the best players on the ice through the preseason and opener against Washington. He credits Hawks strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman with getting him started.
"I probably started when I was 25 or 26," Sharp said. "I got real serious about it, and it was kind of when the fitness craze came into the league. Now you see players training at 13 or 14 years old with personal trainers. That's definitely something I wasn't doing.
"When Paul Goodman came in we sat down and laid out a plan. He's on top of that kind of stuff. There's no question I improve every summer physically because of Paulie. I never had these high-performance trainers and supplements and protein shakes and all that stuff."
Sharp is on a mission to make the Canadian Olympic team, which would cap a pretty good year for him. The Hawks won their second Stanley Cup in June, and the Sharps have a second child due any day now.
"It's a pretty good time in my life, I can't argue that," Sharp said. "Playing for the Blackhawks has been pretty special. The way they take care of us and bring part of such a good team with a chance to win every year is more than I could ask for. I'm very lucky.
"I feel I'm in my prime and have a lot of years left."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville loves what he has seen from Sharp.
"He's skating as good as I've ever seen him skate," Quenneville said. "Every single time he hits the ice it seems he's at a different pace this year. We expect him to be producing at a real nice rate here."
From one goal scorer to another, Marian Hossa has an appreciation for what Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos does.
"I think he works for his space," Hossa said. "It's not just the puck comes to him and he's got an unbelievable release. When you look at his game you have to be aware of where he is."
It turned out that Ben Smith wasn't the only lineup change for the Hawks on Saturday.
While Smith played right wing in the third line, Mike Kostka was inserted on defense in place of Michal Rozsival.
"He can play offensively and defensively," Joel Quenneville said. "He's involved, and he's got speed on the back end to join the attack. This gives him a chance to get in the lineup early in the season."
The only Hawks Quenneville hasn't used yet are defenseman Sheldon Brookbank and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.
View from Tampa:
When Lightning coach Jon Cooper got a look at his 2013-14 schedule and saw the first two games were at Boston and Chicago, he knew immediately it would be a challenge.
"When the schedule came out and we saw we played the two Stanley Cup finalists back to back, we said this will set the bar of where we're at," Cooper said before Saturday's game.
"Tonight we're playing the team that's won two of the last four Stanley Cups and many consider to be the best team in the league the last four or five years, so that's not much to go up against."