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Lightning wants home games before Super Bowl

Defenseman Matt Smaby, who played in the season’s first four games, returned Wednesday.

Defenseman Matt Smaby, who played in the season’s first four games, returned Wednesday.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Tampa will be the center of the sports universe in the week leading to the Feb. 1 Super Bowl at Raymond James Stadium, and the Lightning wants to be part of it.

Team spokesman Bill Wickett said a request has been made to the NHL to play home games on Jan. 27 (a Tuesday) and Jan. 30 (a Friday). He said it is not only about getting visitors looking for entertainment into the seats.

"I think it's more everybody likes to show off when they can," Wickett said Wednesday. "And knowing there's going to be some VIPs and out-of-towners who are coming to the area, it's a great way to show them everything we have."

Steve Hatze Petros, the NHL's vice president for scheduling and strategic planning, who constructs the schedule, said all requests "absolutely" are seriously considered.

"But it's based on making it work," league spokesman Gary Meagher added. "It's a big matrix, and it's a several-month process. There's a lot of back and forth with the teams."

The schedule is announced in July.

"Everybody will be looking for something to do," Wickett said of Super Bowl week. "We hope to offer some great opportunities here at the St. Pete Times Forum."

SMABY IN: Defenseman Matt Smaby, called up Monday from AHL Norfolk, was in the lineup as the Lightning evaluates players for next season.

"I know where they sit," Smaby said. "I just want to play really well and show that I've improved and see what happens from there."

Smaby, 23, the 41st overall pick of the 2003 draft, played four games with Tampa Bay to start the season and averaged 5:59 of ice time. He was sent to Norfolk to improve his stick work and foot speed.

"Mostly every day in practice I did some footwork stuff," Smaby said. "Simple transition drills, backwards and forwards. Drills, like in tight moving your feet quickly and moving around; kind of putting your body in a position it doesn't want to be in and trying to get out of it."

AND COUNTING: It was 35 days on Wednesday, one-third of the way, since Hollywood producer Oren Koules signed a purchase agreement to buy the Lightning that gave him 105 days to finish the deal and still no comment from the head of OK Hockey.

ODDS AND ENDS: With his first-period goal, right wing Marty St. Louis reached 500 points for his NHL career. … Defensemen Mike Lundin and Doug Janik and wing Andre Roy were scratched.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Lightning wants home games before Super Bowl 03/19/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2008 10:58pm]
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