The Lightning left on Monday for an almost day-long trip across North America to Vancouver. After a refueling stop in Kansas City, the Bolts arrived safely after just more than seven hours in the air. They practiced yesterday and then celebrated the New Year here in the Pacific Northwest. They will kick off this four-game road trip tonight against the Canucks at Rogers Arena.
No surprises here, but Ben Bishop gets the start between the pipes for Tampa Bay. The major change will be the return of Ryan Malone to the line-up as he is fully recovered from a broken foot. He has not played since November 22. Tom Pyatt will come out in his return. BJ Crombeen will also sit out as head coach Jon Cooper elects to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
The game tonight is the only game in the NHL today other than the Winter Classic being held in Ann Arbor, Michigan between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs. Cooper said this morning that the Lightning may benefit from being on the road after dropping consecutive games at home coming out of the Christmas break. He said there are not as many distractions. Well, they’d better get used to it as they will play seven of their next eight away from the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Cooper said even the lone home game will feel like a road game since the Bolts will be home for just a day before heading out again.
After the game tonight the Lightning will fly to Calgary in advance of Friday’s game against the Flames. The Bolts will need to get their jackets out, going from around 45 degrees in Vancouver to the mid-20s in Calgary.
After the Winter Classic game today USA Hockey unveiled their roster for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Sadly they did not elect to take Bishop, going with Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick and Detroit’s Jimmy Howard.