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Lightning plans to break from hockey during bye

From the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion to the Bahamas, Tampa Bay players (minus all-stars) plan to take it easy.
The Tampa Bay Lightning girls participated in last year's Gasparilla Pirate Invasion, which coincided with Tampa hosting the NHL All-Star Game. But forward J.T. Miller, who wasn't acquired from the New York Rangers until February, will experience his first Gasparilla this Saturday.
Published Jan. 22
Updated Jan. 22

TAMPA — Spring break has come a little early for the Lightning.

Well, for some of the players.

Aside from forward Steven Stamkos, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and right wing Nikita Kucherov, the rest of the team will enjoy a 10-day break which includes the time off from their bye week leading into the All-Star Weekend.

And for some, they’re definitely looking forward to some time away from the rink.

“Everybody does it differently, but I’m shutting the brain off and enjoying some quality time with my family,” forward J.T. Miller said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Miller has planned a small trip with some friends in a cell phone reception-free cabin in the woods, hoping for some time away without any distractions.

And despite his hatred for wet sand, he’ll spend a few days in Sarasota with his wife, Natalie, while his father watches their infant daughter, Scottlyn.

Miller also will enjoy his first Gasparilla on Saturday.

“I just heard it’s a good time,” he said. “Just a good, fun day.”

While Miller enjoys his time in the woods and at Gasparilla, defenseman Erik Cernak will be using the break to catch up on some chores like moving all of his things from Syracuse, New York, to Tampa.

Cernak said it’s nice to have a few days to catch up on things that the normal hockey schedule doesn’t allow much time for.

“We have a lot of games in the season,” he said, “and the break will be awesome for us so we can reload and enjoy those couple of days off.”

Meanwhile, foward Yanni Gourde will spend a few days in the Bahamas with his wife, Marie-Andree, while his sister and mother-in-law watch their infant daughter, Emma.

“It’s going to be nice to get away from hockey for a little bit,” he said.

Gourde said the break is important for the team because of how hard the schedule has been. He said their bodies have taken a beating over the stretch Tampa Bay has had and it’ll be good to get away for a bit.

“I think it’s good to have that break mentally, physically,” Gourde said, “and we’re going to come back strong.”

Despite a shorter break than the majority of his teammates, Stamkos looks forward to spending a couple of extra days out in California.

Following Saturday’s win, he said that he is excited about not having to travel so close to playing when he competes this weekend in San Jose.

“It’s a lot of travel considering we were just out there,” he said. “Just try to get out there and get adjusted and just have fun.”

And of course, Stamkos is looking forward to his sixth All-Star game appearance.

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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