TAMPA — If it seems like the Lightning’s schedule is changing every day, it’s because it is.
After the Lightning’s two-game series in Dallas was postponed due to ongoing power issues throughout Texas, the NHL added a game for this weekend. The league moved up a road game against Carolina scheduled for March 28 to Saturday night.
The Lightning already were scheduled to play the Hurricanes Monday in Raleigh, N.C., a game that had been rescheduled from last month because of Carolina’s early-season coronavirus outbreak. Now the teams will play two days earlier and have a full two-game series.
After preparing to go a week between games — the Lightning last played Monday, losing 6-4 to Florida — the team found out Thursday night it would play at Carolina on Saturday, Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
“At the end of the day, we’ll just go where we’re scheduled to go,” Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “And obviously, this is a little bit of an adjustment on the fly to switch and go to Carolina, but I think this group just wants to play some games here and get rolling into a game atmosphere again and keep fine-tuning and working on our game here and progressing in the right way.”
The switch also allows one of the Lightning’s postponed games against the Stars to be moved to late March. Tampa Bay’s next trip to Dallas is slated for March 23 and 25. Both teams have a mutual off day on March 22, meaning the league could move one of the postponed games to that day, creating games in Dallas on back-to-back nights.
Moving up the March 28 game against the Hurricanes, which would have been the second of back-to-back games that weekend in Raleigh, prevents the Lightning from having a stretch of five games in seven days.
“It’s kind of the story of the season,” Lightning forward Barclay Goodrow said. “I think we’ve become used to the schedule changing and just becoming adaptable to that. Every team is going through it, so it’s kind of just the way this year is going to go. We know it’s probably going to change again one or two more, three more times, so we’ll be ready to play whenever the games are scheduled, and we’ll go from there.”
Every game is critical in a 56-game regular season, with all of those games against division opponents. With Friday’s changes, the Lightning will play four straight games over six days against the Hurricanes, a team that beat them 1-0 in overtime in their only previous meeting Jan. 28 in Raleigh.
“This is going to be some of the toughest four games in a row that we’ve seen, this opponent,” McDonagh said. “So it’s a great challenge for us having coming off this little bit of a break to get our game where it needs to be.”
“They’re a relentless group that plays a fast-paced game, so if you’re not ready to move the puck quick and take a hit to make a play, it’s going to be a long night for you. So our group is well aware and trying to get a grasp on our preparation here for some fast-paced hockey and some close games.”
The Lightning practiced Friday morning at the Brandon Ice Plex and are slated to fly to Raleigh Saturday morning. Outside of the preseason, it is a rarity for a team to travel on the day of a game.
“I think there’s a lot more issues for (senior director of team services) Ryan Belec than for Jon Cooper,” Cooper said. “He’s the one who has to plan the flights. Probably the toughest part was having our airline on call for the last 48, 72 hours, but it’s worked itself out and we’re off to Carolina. ... Instead of having a pregame skate, you’re gonna spend an hour and 20 minutes on a flight, and other than that we’re just moving on forward.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.
• • •