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Lightning's preseason road trip good for the on-ice product, GM Brian Lawton says, and the bottom line

The first thing that jumps out at you when you examine the Lightning's preseason schedule is the grueling four-games-in-four nights road trip:

What is most interesting is that three of the games -- Sept 21 in Regina, Saskatchewan, against the Senators, Sept. 23 in Loveland, Colo., against the Coyotes, and Sept. 24 in Winnipeg against the Oilers -- are classified as Lightning "home" games, an important distinction because it means Tampa Bay will get a check from the games' promoters, in a lump sum, to cover the team's expenses. Even better, GM Brian Lawton said, the money made will be enough to cover a good portion of the Lightning's overall training camp expenses.

The Sept. 22 game in Everett, Wash., is reciprocity for Phoenix playing Tampa Bay in Loveland. Visiting teams (Tampa Bay in this case)  must cover their own expenses.

We'll have a full story in Wednesday's paper, but was curious about the perception of a plan which leaves the Lightning with just one game at the St. Pete Times Forum -- Sept 18 against the Thrashers -- out of seven exhibitions. The other road exhibitions are in Dallas and Atlanta.

Lawton said part of that is an attempt to save fans some money.

"What we'd like to do is reduce the overall amount that our fans are spending," Lawton said. "We recognize times are tough ... so we thought it made sense to lighten the overall amount."

There also is the idea of seeing a lot of players in a short amount of time, and Lawton said he has to bring at least 30 to rotate so no player, as per the CBA, plays more than two straight nights. Lawton also likes the idea of playing in front of what should be full crowds, which would not be expected at any NHL venue, including the Times Forum.

"Getting ramped up and playing in front of a full house and feeling the energy let's them know it's time to get their game faces on for the season," Lawton said of the players.

But it is the franchising of "home" games that makes this plan so interesting. Lawton said the team is not making "exorbitant" money, and anything it saves goes back into player salaries. Still, it is an example of how financially troubled teams have to be creative.   

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]


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