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)

Tampa Bay Lightning gets back to work

TAMPA — There's no question Lightning players appreciate the NHL mandate of teams being off Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, something that gives them the chance to spend time with their families.

Goalie Dan Ellis, for example, anticipated 10-month old daughter Kayleigh experiencing the holiday for the first time. The same was true for captain Vinny Lecavalier and 7-month-old Victoria.

And considering Tampa Bay's grueling first-half schedule — including a stretch in which it played 15 of 21 games on the road — the break was well-deserved.

But the layoff also comes with challenges. The Lightning travels today to face the Thrashers in a key Southeast Division game having not been allowed to practice for two days.

That's why coach Guy Boucher said a big key will be today's morning skate, getting his team back into "game mode."

"The NHL is basically like the movie Gladiator," Boucher said. "Guys are waiting to get on (the ice), and they get killed out there. Whenever you're not in game mode, the other teams are just all over you. It's that emotional, that passionate state that you got to get to before the game starts.

"And that's hard because guys got a break. And they need it during Christmas. It's about family. It's about sharing. It's about, I wouldn't say soft, but it's about toning it down. Now all of a sudden, how do you go from … toning it down so low and coming back?"

Boucher said what works in the Lightning's favor is it is on the road, like it was Wednesday and Thursday against the Islanders and Rangers, respectively. That helps the players focus on "hockey only" and get an edge.

Boucher said he will try to give the pregame skate a certain flow.

"Usually those games (like tonight), they're all over the place. Your systems go down the drain; the other team's systems, too," Boucher said. "Usually flow, speed and emotion are the most important, and that's what you've got to bring in the morning of that game.

"You don't want to drain (the players), either, because you're playing that night. So it's got to be very short, very intense but very flowy, in a sense — less stops and starts, more to get their legs going, get the adrenaline back at the right place."

Ellis said players won't have shut off their playing mode. He said he typically goes to a gym to work out or watches video over the two days, mixing preparation with family moments that are "irreplaceable."

"You always kind of stay connected," Ellis said.

Plus, as veteran defenseman Brett Clark said, the team "knows what's at stake," especially with several home games coming up.

"We've got a good stretch here; back to a normal schedule. So it's big," Clark said. "We've got to make a statement. We've got something to prove."

Tampa Bay Lightning gets back to work 12/25/10 [Last modified: Saturday, December 25, 2010 9:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem


    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national anthem …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]
  2. Matt Peca making case for Lightning spot


    Center Matt Peca said he didn't read too much into the fact he was the only Lightning player to appear in each of the first three exhibition games.

    But Peca, 24, loved it.

    Matt Peca won nine of 10 faceoffs Friday, a skill the Lightning badly needs.
  3. Bucs players respond to Trump comments on anthem protests


    President Donald Trump shared his thoughts Friday night on NFL players protesting during the national anthem, suggesting that NFL owners should "fire" players who kneel during the anthem in protest. His remarks are alreading drawing responses from many NFL players, including some Bucs.

    Bucs players Mike Evans and Jameis Winston stand with coach Dirk Koetter during the national anthem in a game played in San Diego last season.
  4. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018


    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    Catcher Wilson Ramos connects for a two-run single in the fifth inning against the Cubs on Sept. 20, 2017.
  5. Buccaneers-Vikings Scouting Report: Watching Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen


    No matter how much film we study, no matter how much data we parse, we just don't know how an NFL season will unfold.

    Four of tight end Kyle Rudolph's seven catches this season have come on third down, including this 15-yard touchdown in the Vikings' opener against the Saints. [Getty Images]