Monday, July 16, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning faces good and bad of bye week

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.

Comments
Hereís our Mount Rushmore for the Lightning

Hereís our Mount Rushmore for the Lightning

The Lightning just celebrated its 25th anniversary season — long enough to have a Mount Rushmore.Here it is:Marty St. Louis (2000-14)St. Louis is the all-time franchise leader in points and the only Lightning player to make the Hall of Fame aft...
Published: 07/13/18
Lightning names AHLís Derek Lalonde as new assistant

Lightning names AHLís Derek Lalonde as new assistant

The Lightning has completed Jon Cooper's coaching staff for the upcoming season, announcing on Thursday the hiring of Derek Lalonde, who spent the last two seasons as head coach of the American Hockey League's Iowa Wild.Lalonde, 45, has steadily work...
Published: 07/12/18
Lightning re-signs left wing Adam Erne to one-year contract

Lightning re-signs left wing Adam Erne to one-year contract

A busy few weeks of re-signing players continued Wednesday, as the Lightning brought back the last of their restricted free agents, signing left wing Adam Erne to a one-year, $800,000 contract for 2018-19.Erne, 23, was a second-round pick in 2013 and...
Published: 07/11/18
Lightning locks up Nikita Kucherov with 8-year, $76 million extension

Lightning locks up Nikita Kucherov with 8-year, $76 million extension

CLEARWATER — Nikita Kucherov could have waited a year, allowing the demand for a top young NHL scorer to escalate as he hit restricted free agency next summer.But when the Lightning made him an offer to become the highest-paid player in the tea...
Published: 07/10/18
Lightning signs Nikita Kucherov to richest contract in team history

Lightning signs Nikita Kucherov to richest contract in team history

The Lightning took another step toward securing its future Tuesday by announcing that right wing Nikita Kucherov will sign the richest contract in franchise history.Kucherov's eight-year contract extension will pay him an average of $9.5 million star...
Published: 07/10/18
Kucherov signing helps Lightning finish what it started

Kucherov signing helps Lightning finish what it started

TAMPA — The Erik Karlsson sweepstakes hasn't ended for the Lightning.But the Nikita Kucherov sweepstakes is over before it began.The Lightning has locked up its star right winger. An eight-year extension that begins in the 2019-20 season will p...
Published: 07/10/18
Meet the girl behind the Marty St. Louis sign

Meet the girl behind the Marty St. Louis sign

ST. PETERSBURG — When the call from the Hall came, there she was again.The girl with the "I (heart) U Marty" sign, in the newspaper again, this time on the cover of the June 27 Tampa Bay Times sports section. She was frozen in time, doing what ...
Published: 07/07/18
What might Lightning give up to get Erik Karlsson?

What might Lightning give up to get Erik Karlsson?

TAMPA — Shortly after the excitement of the real possibility Thursday night that the Lightning could be trading for defenseman Erik Karlsson, fans quickly came to an uneasy place: What exactly would Tampa Bay give up to get the two-time Norris ...
Published: 07/06/18
The Lightning advantage in Erik Karlsson trade talks

The Lightning advantage in Erik Karlsson trade talks

He wants to be here.This is the place.In case you'd missed it amid the gloom and doom of a Lightning season that came up short again, there are still people who want to play in Tampa Bay.One of them is Erik Sven Gunnar Karlsson of Landsbro, Sweden. T...
Published: 07/06/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Will the Lightning trade for Erik Karlsson?

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Will the Lightning trade for Erik Karlsson?

Rick Stroud returns from vacation to discuss reports that the Lightning will acquire star defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators.He also talks about reaction to Jameis Winston's three-game suspension, the Rays' crazy home stand and which p...
Published: 07/06/18