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Lightning Round: We have hockey tonight!

The Lightning return to the ice (hopefully) in Carolina

NHL: JAN 05 Lightning at Hurricanes Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For the first time since last Saturday in Columbus, the Tampa Bay Lightning will take to the ice against an opponent wearing a different colored jersey. If that sentence sounds familiar, it’s because I wrote something similar last Thursday. Tampa Bay has been playing as frequently as an NFL team of late and I’m pretty sure they’re ready to start taking their aggression out on their opponents.

Hopefully, tonight’s game starts a pattern of regular play that allows the Lightning to find their rhythm on the ice. After playing just 2 games in the last 12 days, they should play 52 in the next 102 days. So much sweet, sweet hockey action over the next three months.

The break has been good in some regards: plenty of rest to get over those early season bumps and bruises along with more than enough practice time to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to their schemes and philosophy. It’s also allowed some players, looking at you Mathieu Joseph, to re-learn a position, center, that he hasn’t played since his days in junior hockey.

The drawback is that there is only so much that a team can go through in practice before it becomes stagnant. It’s like the end of training camp in normal years when players lament about wanting to hit someone wearing a different uniform. There is also no way to fully replicate game speed in practice. Coaches can run them with as much intensity as they can muster, but in the end, you’re never going to go 100% all out against your own teammates.

So it will be good to get back into the regular flow of things for the Lightning. After playing a bad team (Chicago) and a maybe good team (Columbus) they will come out of the gates against a good team that has played less the Lightning have so far this season (Carolina is 2-1 in three games so far).

Expect the first period or so to be a little sloppy, but if the Bolts game last Thursday against Columbus is any indication, they should get their act together by the second period or so. The players and Coach Cooper will be happy to get into a routine.

Lightning Links

Steven Stamkos has six points in four games this season and may not be at the top of his game. Kind of like when he came back from a knee injury a few seasons ago and put up 86 points in 78 games despite being at “90%”. He still feels like he’s all the way back after returning from two abdominal surgeries.

Goodbye Fox Sports Sun, hello Bally Sports Sun. The regional sports networks owned by Sinclair Broadcasting are undergoing a rebranding. Of course, it doesn’t really matter if you can’t watch them due to their inability to come to terms with local broadcasters in regards to carriage fees.

Christopher Gibson has been reassigned to the taxi squad. That could mean Curtis McElhinney is ready to return to action although he remained on the COVID protocol list as of Wednesday.

Hockey Links

The Pittsburgh Penguins sent a bit of a shockwave through the NHL yesterday (no it wasn’t because they signed Yanick Weber). General Manager Jim Rutherford, architect of their two most recent Stanley Cup teams, abruptly resigned. He cited personal, not health, reasons for his decision. Assistant GM Patrik Allvin will serve as the interim GM.

Professional hockey is returning to Georgia. No, Atlanta isn’t getting a third chance at an NHL franchise, instead it’s Savannah. The as of yet unmascoted team will be joining the ECHL in the 2022-23 season.

After opening the season in Glendale, Arizona, it looks like the San Jose Sharks will be able to return home in February. With Santa Clara County lifting its ban on team sports, the Sharks are cleared to return to the SAP Center. They will still play their next two “home” games in the Coyotes arena as they sort out the protocols to return to California. They are scheduled to play their first game in their own arena on February 13th.

The St. Louis Blues will become the fourth team (after Florida, Dallas, and Arizona) to allow fans to attend their home games. Starting on Friday, February 2nd they will allow 1,400 season ticket holders to watch the action live.