Take this as the first day of true classes during school. Before it were a bunch of meet-and-greet / open house sessions. If we were to treat the 2015-16 season as a person, it was preschool or kindergarten; basics were taught, everything was informal. While the season is a neophyte, it's les about lessons and more about achieving. Lessons will still be learned, but that's life: you learn from the different challenges you face and how you overcome dilemma helps defines you.
So today is the first day of school and a few days of testing immediately after, as the Lightning journey to Buffalo, Boston and Detroit for games 2, 3, and 4 of this new season. It's probably best to go out and make a good first impression in this home opener, no?
Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov, all banged up during preseason play for the Lightning, participated in the morning skate at Amalie Arena. They'll likely find their way into the lineup tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Dump Truck/Hot Pocket that is Cedric Paquette, however, was not part of the morning skate. No updates on his injury status and I don't expect more than on-the-mend remarks.
In other Tampa Bay lineup news, The Line has been held, at least for opening night. The pairing of Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin has been at the forefront of preseason chatter... Drouin has flown on his own in games as well, so taking the notion he's only excelled (4 goals, 4 assists) in preseason is because of being with Stamkos isn't entirely factual. Unlike the start of last season, Drouin hasn't been held back by his own physical injuries or adjustment to the NHL game. He's poised to achieve this season if the current circumstances hold - either enabled by Stamkos or doing the enabling of Stamkos.
That's the Tampa Bay angle of it all. The Philadelphia Flyers story is more complex, with coaching changed and the lineup shifted in the 2015 off-season. Some of the lineup titans still remain with Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Mark Streit. Oh, and Vincent Lecavalier never should have signed in Philadelphia, that's a titan aspect of the Flyers. He's a healthy scratch tonight and it was a decision made three days ago. The status of Lecavalier's contract - he's on season 3 of a 5 year deal with Philadelphia with an AAV of $4.5 million - that keeps him trapped on a club he was never to truly fit in with. Lecavalier has not played 70 games in his two seasons with the Flyers and has a total of 57 points in those two respective seasons (28 goals, 29 assists).
Speaking of former Bolts on the Broad Street Bullies, this isn't to be the first time defenseman Radko Gudas plays against the Lightning, he's also scratched tonight. The Beards bruising style should fit in perfectly in Philly, just leave his personal habits out of things. He's an awesome eccentric.
While we're talking formers facing formers (or the lack there of in the two above cases), Brayden Coburn squares off against his former friends and teammates tonight. How's he feeling? What's the plan?
Voracek greets former @NHLFlyers defenseman Braydon Coburn on bench. "You pumped? You're not gonna crush me, are you?" Coburn: "I'll try"— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) October 8, 2015
It's opening night, it's going to be fun and yet it's going to be intense. And it's gonna count.