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Lightning plays the waiting game

The Lightning faces the winner of the Bruins-Maple Leafs series in the conference semifinals, scheduled to begin later this week.
Kasperi Kapanen (blue) of the Maple Leafs and Charlie McAvoy of the Bruins and the rest of their teammates will battle through a seven-game series while the Lightning sits at home and waits to play the winner in the conference semifinals. (Getty Images)
Kasperi Kapanen (blue) of the Maple Leafs and Charlie McAvoy of the Bruins and the rest of their teammates will battle through a seven-game series while the Lightning sits at home and waits to play the winner in the conference semifinals. (Getty Images)
Published Apr. 24, 2018
Updated Apr. 24, 2018

TAMPA — Had Boston closed out Toronto on Monday, Game 1 of the Lightning-Bruins series would have been Wednesday. Instead, the Lightning returned to the ice Tuesday still awaiting its opponent for the conference semifinals that begin later this week.

The Bruins and Maple Leafs play Game 7 Wednesday night in Boston.

The Lightning will open the second round of the playoffs on Saturday. The game will begin at 3 p.m. if it is against the Bruins (NBC)  and 8 p.m. if it is against the Maple Leafs (NBCSN).

The NHL did not announce a date for Game 2.

When asked after Saturday's series-clinching victory against the Devils if he cared which team the Lightning would face in the second round, D Anton Stralman said, "No, they're both great teams. Maybe Boston had quite a bit of a run there at the end and maybe came into the playoffs a little bit hotter, but they're two really, really good teams. Whoever we play is going to be a tough challenge, a fun challenge and a great opportunity."

Boston was hot, winning three of the first four, but Toronto won the last two games to force Game 7.

The Lightning held an up-tempo practice that featured a session of three-on-three scrimmages with one net at the blue line and another at center ice. The idea is to get the players reacting more to the puck.

Coach Jon Cooper said since he cannot incorporate a game plan for the next opponent, the goal was to get the players to push their bodies after a two-day layoff while also having a little fun.

Closing out the Devils in five games has its rewards, especially when the other series goes seven. But there can be a downside.

"The one thing is you can't have too much time off," Cooper said. "The competition, the atmosphere, the adrenaline is so high in these games you don't want to step completely out of it."

Honor for Callahan

RW Ryan Callahan is the Lightning nominee for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the player who "best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community." Callahan helps children with cancer through his Ryan Callahan Foundation.

Thoughts turn to Toronto

Cooper said he watched Game 6 of the Bruins-Maple Leaf series to scout the upcoming opponent, but also found the hockey fan inside him coming out during some of the bigger moments, like a save or a goal.

Yet, the tragic event that took place Monday afternoon in Toronto was not far from his mind. Ten people were killed and 16 injured when a van plowed into a crowd standing on a street corner.

"I don't know what's going on," Cooper said. "The sad thing is it feels like something like this happens with more regularity now."

Cooper said the hockey community, especially in Canada, is still coping with the bus accident that killed 16 members of the Humboldt (Saskatchewan) Broncos junior hockey team. Now another tragedy strikes not far from the Hockey Hall of Fame.

"If you've got to pick a team to win that game, I'm glad for that reason it was Toronto, because if that helped put a smile on somebody's face in that city for what went on, you hoped that that was the case," Cooper said. "It's just tough news to wrap your head around and you say it with your young kids, when they ask you to explain this to me and you can't as a parent. I just feel for everybody there."

Contact Roger Mooney at rmooney@tampabay.com. Follow @rogermooney50.