BRANDON — There won't be official word from the team or league until the players ratify the collective bargaining agreement. But the Lightning will open its lockout-shortened 48-game season Jan. 19 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum against the Capitals.
"That will be great," Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos said. "It's a great test for us. It's a team we're going to have to battle with if we're going to make the playoffs. We might as well get them in front of our home fans."
Game time was to be announced, and the entire schedule is not expected to be released until after the union vote on the labor deal ends at 8 a.m. Saturday. The team hopes to have tickets on sale by Monday, with a presale Sunday for season-ticket holders and those attending the start of training camp.
Still, word the Lightning will open at home against a heated Southeast Division rival sparked emotions.
"The last few years, we've built a rivalry with them," center Nate Thompson said. "It feels like we're always pretty close in the standings and fighting for points against each other. To be able to open against them is great for us and great for the fans."
Said Stamkos: "Hopefully, it will be a rockin' building and we can feed off that energy."