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Enthusiastically downplaying the start to preseason; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Nashville Predators preview

Yay! Hockey is here. It's just not the real thing. Not yet.

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
When: 7:30 PM EDT | Tickets: Check Availability
Radio: 970 AM WFLA | Television: None | Twitter: Live stream
Opponent Coverage: On the Forecheck

I have news! Enthusiastic news you've been waiting to hear reported to you for more than two months (probably just about three, but I can't calculate that specifically without doing some research that I'm not going to do). Tonight, Amalie Arena will host a hockey game! Two NHL franchises will have players suit up and compete against each other! This is thrilling! This is brilliant!

This is practice; over-glorified practice.

Two NHL franchises will be squaring off but the teams playing are not necessarily NHL caliber. Yeah, some big names are lacing up for the Lightning tonight in Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman among others, and certainly that'll be the case for the Nashville Predators tonight as well. But it's practice, nothing more.

Jonathan Drouin will be among Lightning starters, and if he's not playing on Steven Stamkos' wing... Well, don't read anything in to that. It's not the full lineup of the likely NHL team and shouldn't be seen as such.  It's practice.

Studs from the present will play with studs from the future (hello, Brayden Point, Anthony DeAngelo, Slater Koekkoek) and face a mixed squad of Nashville Predators players of the same variety and they'll... practice. In a game situation which will aid in assessment and planning for the organization. In that regard alone it'll count.

Goalie Ray Emery will get the start for the Bolts, splitting time during the game with first year pro Adam Wilcox, who is projected to be among the Syracuse Crunch this season. Emery is competing for the backup slot behind Ben Bishop. Emery's attempt to stay with Tampa Bay is likely the grandest story to watch tonight. Oh, but you won't be able to watch unless you are at the Amalie.  Cuz it's practice.

Speaking of practice, the first 3-on-3 post-game scrimmage of the preseason will commence after the regulation game. It, 3-on-3, is a gimmick to try to stop a gimmick (the shootout). I'll just say that finality rules, and a tie stinks... If I go any further on this, I'll get away from the point.

Hockey is back!!... But it's practice. Here's hoping this scrimmage doesn't come with injuries to anyone on either roster.

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