Five games, seven days while journeying west to east. We've been here before, but it was several hundred miles to the north to start that sojourn of Pacific and Central contests. Tampa Bay's first road trip of the season took the club to Vancouver, swung them through Alberta, then veered them through Manitoba and Minnesota as a battered bunch before sending them home.
That was October. The stakes were different then for everyone involved in the contests. Now? Now it's February and the Lightning will start their trek due south of the Golden Gate, take a couple of days in the Los Angeles area before heading to the desert before climbing a mile high.
Translated and clarified, the Bolts play the Sharks tonight in San Jose, head directly to Los Angeles for a date with the Kings at Staples Center on Monday; square off against the Ducks at Honda Center on Wednesday, then close out the week with another pair of back-to-back games against the Coyotes and Avalanche.
The pacing is nothing to love and the contestants don't want to give up anything right now; San Jose's position in the Western Conference standings rises and falls far too easily with how tight that race is. The Los Angeles Kings on the other hand, are on the outside of the playoff picture and need to get back in. The Ducks are at the top and will look for revenge for the loss last weekend at the Amalie, while the Coyotes and the Avalanche look to save face on a season that they'd rather forget.
One thing Tampa Bay is wary of on this challenge of a trip is not to suffer more injuries. Cedric Paquette should be back in the lineup, but there's no guarantee of that return. The fact he's returning on the opening night of back-to-back games is also a cautious situation.
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