Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning faces good and bad of bye week

Tampa Bay Lightning center Brian Boyle (11) celebrates his goal tying the game 3 to 3 during third period action of the season opener at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (10/13/16).


Tampa Bay Lightning center Brian Boyle (11) celebrates his goal tying the game 3 to 3 during third period action of the season opener at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (10/13/16).

TAMPA — Lightning defensemen Victor Hedman and Braydon Coburn plan to take advantage of this week's five-day bye by taking their better halves on vacation.

Others are preferring a stay­cation.

"I'll be chasing my kid around," center Brian Boyle said.

Each team this season gets a five-day bye, instituted as part of the league's negotiations to get the Players Association to sign off on changing the All-Star Game format to a 3-on-3 divisional tournament. Rest, mentally and physically, are welcomed benefits. The Lightning doesn't practice again until Friday.

But the break couldn't come at a worse time for the Lightning (25-24-7). Tampa Bay, which is fighting for its playoff life, has been playing some of its best hockey, winning three of its past four. Teams it's chasing will gain points while it rests. And the bye weeks haven't been kind to teams, which have typically struggled coming out of them.

The eight teams that have completed their bye were a combined 15-22-3 in their first five games after it. The best record was 3-2. The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins dropped three of their first four. The Rangers and Islanders lost their first three.

That kind of skid could be a crushing blow to the Lightning, which resumes play on the road Saturday in Dallas, the first game of a back-to-back that ends Sunday in Colorado.

"We have to be pretty mature about this, how we handle this rest time," Boyle said. "Be smart about it. We have to stay in shape, make sure we're ready to go, because every point is paramount for us right now."

You can understand why players embrace the time off. The schedule has been brutal this season, condensed due to September's World Cup of Hockey. Many believe that has led to the rash of injuries around the league, the Lightning among the hardest hit. Tampa Bay hopes center Tyler Johnson, who missed the past two games with a lower-body injury, could be back soon after the bye.

And few teams have played more games the past three years than Tampa Bay, which is coming off back-to-back playoff runs to the Stanley Cup final and Eastern Conference final, respectively. A league-most 12 Lightning players participated in the World Cup. "It's been a long couple years," Hedman said. "I don't mind the (bye)."

But there's also an argument that these five days would serve teams better by being spread out, helping limit the amount of back-to-back games.

Coach Jon Cooper said that when the Lightning was in Arizona on a road trip last month, he asked Coyotes coach Dave Tippett for the break's pitfalls. The Coyotes went 1-4-0 after their Jan. 8-12 bye. Lightning players said the key is resting while also staying active to keep in shape. Forwards Gabriel Dumont and Erik Condra were sent down to AHL Syracuse to get playing time.

Goalie Ben Bishop said players are used to a three-day break for All-Star weekend and Christmas. "It's kind of a double-edged sword," he said. "We're playing well, but obviously, five days off is going to help. It's nice to get away for a little bit and recharge before the (playoff) push."

This has to be hardest on the goalies, who won't face a shot until Friday. And Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy have been on a roll. Bishop has allowed one goal in his past two starts. Vasilevskiy made 37 saves Friday in one of his best performances of the season in a shootout loss to the Wild.

Bishop said that considering how much he and Vasilevskiy have played and practiced, the break shouldn't affect them much. "But you never know until you go through it," he said.

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTImes_JSmith.

Up next

at Stars, 8 Saturday, Dallas

TV: Fox Sports Sun

Radio: 970-AM


Bye, bye, bye

Teams have typically struggled coming out of their bye weeks this season.

• Arizona (Jan. 8-12)

Next 5 games: 1-4-0

• Colorado (Jan. 7-11)

Next 5 games: 0-4-1

• Islanders (Jan. 1-5)

Next 5 games: 1-2-2

• Rangers (Jan. 8-12)

Next 5 games: 2-3-0

• Ottawa (Jan. 2-6)

Next 5 games: 3-2-0

• Flyers (Jan. 16-20)

Next 5 games: 3-2-0

• Penguins (Jan. 1-7)

Next 5 games: 2-3-0

• Maple Leafs (Jan. 8-12)

Next 5 games: 3-2-0

Lightning faces good and bad of bye week 02/12/17 [Last modified: Sunday, February 12, 2017 10:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Koetter: QB Jameis Winston will start Sunday vs. Bills


    After five days of uncertainty, Jameis Winston will be starting at quarterback on Sunday as the Bucs play at Buffalo, coach Dirk Koetter announced Friday afternoon.

    Bucs QB Jameis Winston, shown against the Patriots two weeks ago, will start Sunday at Buffalo after being sidelined with a shoulder injury last week. Dirk Koetter announced that he was starting after watching him throw at practice Friday.
  2. Florida football has become something to be endured, not enjoyed


    The Jim McElwain era at Florida is something to be endured, not enjoyed.

    Florida Gators defensive lineman Khairi Clark (54) leaves the field after the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. The Florida Gators lost to the Texas A&M Aggies 17-16 MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
  3. Cannon Fodder podcast: Most important stat in Bucs-Bills game


    Greg Auman talks about the uncertainty at quarterback for the Bucs as they go to Buffalo in his latest Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Interceptions, such as this one by Brent Grimes against Arizona, will be the most important stat in Sunday's game.
  4. Dirk Koetter sounds Bucs alarm: 'They're the players that we have'


    The other day, Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith was asked about the lack of production and pressure from the defensive line, especially off the edge.

    Then it happened.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (28) takes the field for the start of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the New England Patriots on October 5, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
  5. Superiority complex: USF continues to battle schedule, expectations


    Does USF deserve its No. 16 national ranking? Coach Charlie Strong says there's no doubt. He expects that his Bulls can match up with any Division I-A program. (Octavio Jones, Times)