The Tampa Bay Lightning's preseason schedule was released this morning with several exhibition dates in non-NHL cities scattered throughout the North American west, spanning from Dallas to Winnipeg to Washington State and Loveland, Colorado. Take a gander:
Sept. 16 at Dallas, 8:30 p.m.
Sept. 18 vs. Thrashers, St. Pete Times Forum, 7:30 p.m.
Sept 21 vs. Senators at Regina, Saskatchewan, 9 p.m.
Sept. 22 vs. Coyotes at Everett, Wash., 10:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 vs. Coyotes at Loveland, Colo., 9 p.m.
Sept. 24 vs. Oilers at Winnipeg, 8:30 p.m.
Sept. 27 at Atlanta, 5 p.m.
All times are eastern and subject to change.
Five games in the western conference... Back-to-back-to-back-to-back games on September 21st - 24th -- starting in Saskatchewan, hopping to Everett, Washington, bouncing to Loveland, Colorado before finally ending in Winnipeg, Manitoba -- compile upwards of 2100 miles traveled in those 4 nights.
This, on top of Rick Tocchet's promised trying camp, puts the Bolts through an additional grueling test before the start of the season in October.
I do have to wonder, though, if this extended western swing and two total home-dates in the preseason will effectively mute out things again for the Lightning again? Last year's camp -- after all the bombast of the off-season with big-signings and big-hype -- was largely ignored in the press due to Barry Melrose limp camp and the team jetting off to Europe for the pre-season and opening of the regular season. That took the wind out of the Lightning's sails on what (up until that point) had looked like a promising season.
Odds are, though, it makes no difference, but better prepares the team for the marathon that is the NHL season.