TAMPA — On Thursday night against the Canucks, the Lightning escaped Amalie Arena with a 5-4 win. They needed those two points for the win because the road to start 2023 gets tougher for them from there.
The road in general has been rougher for the Lightning this season than any in their recent past.
As Tampa Bay (26-13-1) heads on its longest trip of the season — five games over eight nights — it has a .500 road record. The Lightning are 9-9-0 away from Amalie Arena, where they are 17-4-1 this season.
The last three seasons, as they won two Stanley Cups and finished runnerup last season, they posted winning records on the road. Last season, for example, when they lost to the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup final, the Lightning were 24-15-2 away from home.
“Obviously, we all know how big road games are, especially when you go for five (games), you want to come home with more points than you do games,” forward Brandon Hagel said. “And we haven’t done a great job with that this year. So I think we all know what we need to do.
“I don’t think there’s too much talking that needs to be done. I think everyone knows what our record is on the road and what it is at home, and we’ve simply just got to be better.”
This trip, which begins tonight in St. Louis, will be particularly challenging. Tampa Bay faces teams challenging for postseason spots, unlike the Canucks, whose furious comeback try threatened the Lightning’s eight-game home winning streak.
The Lightning also face Western Conference teams with which they are not that familiar, but that cannot be an excuse, assistant coach Rob Zettler said. It’s more about Tampa Bay figuring out how it can be successful.
“We’ll look at some of their tendencies and some of their top players, take the top-line guys, what they’re doing to have success,” Zettler said after practice Wednesday. “But … at the end of the day, if your game is not in line, then there’s not much reason to worry about what the other guys are doing if you can’t figure out what you are doing.
“So I would say we do look at (those teams). Probably show, before the game …. seven or eight clips of what they do or what they’re doing to try to have success, and then we’ll focus more on us.”
Coach Jon Cooper sees this week’s two-game sweep at home (including a 6-3 win over the Blue Jackets on Tuesday), where the Lightning squandered leads and didn’t put away teams early, as a good reminder that they need to focus on themselves.
“We got to be a better team when we get back than when we left,” Cooper said. “Let’s make sure we play better third periods than we have and play better with the lead than we did (this week). We have a heck of a home record. But we’re .500 on the road. And we need to improve on that.
“So this won’t be easy. You are looking at some of the teams we’re playings, and everybody is chasing a playoff spot. So it gets harder and harder, but we have to look at this. As I said all the time, we need to come back to this trip with more points than games played. And … that’s the goal.”
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Contact Kristie Ackert at email@example.com.
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