The St. Pete Times Forum (above, in a file photo) doesn't quite look the same anymore...
When it originally opened in the fall of 1996, the venue then-known as Ice Palace was one of the first parts of the very-much-under-development Channel District. There was no TECO streetcar, no Marriott Waterside Hotel, no Embassy Suites, there were no Towers at Channelside, Victory Lofts, Ventana, Grand Central, or other places of habitation in the district besides a few artists living in converted warehouess..
While the building mostly hadn't changed over it's lifespan, the area surrounding it within the Channel District has blossomed and taken on it's own distinct identity. 15 years after it originally opened, the venue re-dubbed the St. Pete Times Forum begins sporting a new identity all of it's own with today's home opener against the Florida Panthers. You've heard it over and over again that the Forum has been undergoing $40 Million in renovations.
Now, you get to see, feel it, and hear it all first hand.
After just about three weeks on the road - from pre-season through the start of the regular season - the Tampa Bay Lightning make their return to their revamped palace to begin a three-game homestand.
There is speculation that Jacob Markstrom, the Panthers rookie goaltender from Sweden, will make his NHL debut tonight. With the Cats playing back-to-back games (they play in Washington tomorrow), splitting the workload between Markstrom and Jose Theodore is probably the wiser choice than giving Theodore both starts.
As for the Lightning, as of this writing it's uncertain who will be starting in net tonight fo the Bolts. While Mathieu Garon has put up impressive numbers (a 2.28 GGA and a .938 save percentage), you cannot write off Dwayne Roloson from getting the start. Rolli has struggled, as the numbers show (4.34 GAA, a .883 save percentage), but so has the team in front of him.
Indeed, the Lightning have played a version of the Keystone Kops on defense as of late. Knowing that, I'm wondering if Guy Boucher should dress his seven defensemen and play only 11 forwards? Could it really hurt? Especially when the offensive contributions on Saturday night came from Marc-Andre Bergeron?
[Note by John Fontana, 10/17/11 12:03 PM EDT ] Dwayne Roloson will be betweent eh pipes for the Lightning, with Ryan Shannon and Teddy Purcell back in the lineup for the Bolts. Matt Gilroy remains int eh lineup with Bruno Gervais scratched.