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Lightning ready to get serious about regular season

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The preseason for the Tampa Bay Lightning is now in its final week. Only three games remain before the regular season begins on October 6.

Tonight, Tampa Bay has a rematch with rival Florida at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. The Panthers beat the Lightning on Sunday at Amalie Arena, 4-2.

The Lightning bench will be less crowded during tonight’s game. On Monday, the team re-assigned 12 players to minor league affiliates. Eleven of those players went to Syracuse in the American Hockey League, while 2016 first-round draft choice Brett Howden was assigned to Moose Jaw, Sask. of the Western Hockey League.

For Lightning Coach Jon Cooper, the reduced roster gives him the opportunity to get more ice time for the regulars. He says preparations for the regular season now begin in earnest.

“It’s time to get some chemistry, and we’ll see who’s working with who and try some different combinations,” Cooper said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “The pre-preseason’s over now and this is when teams are beginning to gear up for the regular season, so this should be a good one tonight.”

Statistics are meaningless through the early part of training camp. Through the first four games, 44 players, including two goalies, have been on the ice for Tampa Bay.

The Lightning’s two biggest stars, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, have each played in only one of the four games. Both should see action on Tuesday.

While the Panthers are a big rival for the Lightning, the two teams may start getting sick of each other. After Tuesday’s game, the Lightning will stick around and play the Panthers again in South Florida on Thursday.

After finishing the preseason in Nashville on Saturday, Florida returns to Tampa to begin the season a week from Friday. The two teams then head to Sunrise for the Panthers’ home opener the following night.


Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at [email protected]

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