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Bear Essentials On the Road: Tampa

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
Tampa is gorgeous at night. (

Bear Essentials On the Road: TAMPA, FLORIDA (St. Pete Times)
Today, the Bruins take on foe number two on this four game trip -- the Florida Panthers. The Bruins practiced in a local rink yesterday (the St. Pete Times Forum was busy with the Florida vs. Vermont B-ball game) and following another restful night off, and team breakfast, Our Boys will hit the ice at the Bank Atlantic at 11:30 a.m. JB

Where are we going?
The official website of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce says, "Welcome to Tampa Bay, an area that encompasses three counties and is "home" to over 2 million residents. It's a home filled with sunny beaches and bright futures. It offers great business opportunities and low costs for doing business. It's where Tampa Bay Buccaneers' fans cheered their winning team on to Super Bowl glory in 2002 and their favorite hockey team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, on to the 2004 Stanley Cup victory.
Where are we playing?
The St. Pete Times Forum.

The St. Pete Times Forum website explains, "The St. Pete Times Forum encompasses 660,000 square feet with three decks and seven separate levels. The building is 133 feet 10 inches in height and 493 feet in diameter. It contains 3,400 tons of steel, 30,000 cubic yards of concrete and 70,000 square feet of glass.

The innovative design of the St. Pete Times Forum provides for 19,758 seats for NHL games, 20,500 seats for Basketball games and up to 21,500 seats for concerts and center stage events. Medallions Food Services, a preeminent organization in the food service industry, is the official concessionaire of the St. Pete Times Forum, providing diverse menu items throughout the arena at restaurants MEDALLIONS and ICONS, luxury suites and the concourse concessions. There are 80 luxury suites - 28 on the lower level and 52 on the upper level. There are 20 ticket windows and 22 concession stands. Meetings are easily accommodated through the availability of 4 meeting rooms."
Who are we playing?
The Tampa Bay Lightning.

The nice history section at the Bolts website explains, "While the actual birth of the Tampa Bay Lightning occurred almost two years earlier, the team took its first baby steps when 72 players gathered on the choppy ice at the Lakeland Civic Center on September 12, 1992. Among the Lightning hopefuls gathered to try to catch the eye of General Manager Phil Esposito and Head Coach Terry Crisp were NHL regulars (Rob Ramage, Marc Bergevin, Doug Crossman, Adam Creighton), retreads hoping for another chance (Ron Duguay, Larry Melnyk) and unknowns such as Kevin MacKay, Rich Braccia and Daniel Shank."

But in 2004, the Lightning shook the hockey world.

"The Lightning’s ascension to the pinnacle of their sport was the product of following a charted course out of the depths of futility. During that time there have been many memorable moments, including: Martin St. Louis scoring the game-winning triple-overtime goal against the Washington Capitals to win their first playoff series in 2003; winning the 2003 Southeast Division title; Brian Bellows and Alexander Selivanov scoring back-to-back overtime goals in Games 2 and 3 of the 1996 Eastern Conference Quarter-finals; NHL playoff attendance records; NHL regular season attendance records.

In 2004, the Lightning gave fans something to remember for life with a fantastic regular season and a Stanley Cup Championship. Along the way the Bolts captured their second consecutive Southeast Division title and finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference, while also capturing their first Eastern Conference crown. The Stanley Cup Finals produced innumerable lasting memories, and some of the standouts included St. Louis' Game 6 double-overtime winner, Ruslan Fedotenko's Game 7 heroics, Brad Richards earning the Conn Smythe Trophy and Dave Andreychuk hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time."

When are we playing?
7:30 p.m. ET. Again, one half hour later than normal -- no biggie.

Who's playing for us?
The skate is at 11:30 a.m., check back in a few. Coach continues to have some decisions to make with both an extra forward and an extra d-man here in the hotel, but he seemed to hint at Milan Lucic sitting again (still getting back into shape after concussion).

Is the game on?
Yes. NESN and WBZ will cover the game. So make sure to tune in to Dave, Bob, Brick, Rob and Jack --  all of whom have made the trip.

John Bishop is the beat writer for He covers the Black & Gold hoping to offer a positive look at the team, not only from the stands and the press box, but also from inside the locker room. A graduate of Boston U. and Northeastern, 'Bish' grew up in Connecticut and moved to the Hub of Hockey in 1993. Since then he has made all four rinks at the Beanpot schools, as well as both Gardens, his icebound homes away from home. Prior to joining the TD Banknorth Garden staff in 2005, Bishop had written for several publications, with his primary focus being college hockey. He coauthored the book Bygone Boston in 2003 and hopes someday to pen a bio of Hobey Baker.
10:43 a.m.
Just found out that many of the guys are already over at the Forum and I have to hop to, too.

3:39 p.m.
Yes that was more than "a bit," however, I am back with pregame stuff and a news item.

Kirsten, who works with the Travis Roy Foundation says that they have something special planned this afternoon:

Ray Bourque and Travis Roy will be attending the Lester Family Light House in Tewksbury, MA on Saturday, December 1st between 4:30pm-5:30pm.

The Lester family decorates their house in Tewksbury with over 100,000 lights and has given all the donations made by viewers and admirers of the house to different charities and has decided to make the Travis Roy Foundation their cause for all future years (they donated over $10k to the foundation last year).

Ray will be available for autographs and photos during his visit and we would love to try and get as many people as possible to swing by the house.  The address is 220 Cabot Road in Tewksbury MA.

"Good Show, folks," and good luck.

While talking about today's practice, Bruins head coach Claude Julien was Asked why today was an "optional" practice. 

"Schedule," was his answer.

"We had a good practice yesterday and we've got all of those games coming up," he added. "You have to look ahead...(and) give certain guys (a morning) off so that they remain fresh throughout the week."

Julien reitterated that he was pleased with most of the clubs efforts on Thursday.

"I thought we were solid and really came out strong (especially) during the first period," he said. "This is something that our team is getting better at  -- having everybody pulling in the same direction -- and everyone wants to be part of it.

"That creates a good team chemistry.

"And I like the direction we are going in," said Coach.

The B's bench boss cautioned his club, through the media, however.

"Every team is a new challenge and it's too early in the season (for anyone) to get too high."

4:00 p.m.
By the way, I was remiss by not thanking Myra and Elliot Kalman, grandparents of the New England Hockey Journal's Matt Kalman, who treated Matt and I to an outstanding dinner in Lauderhill, Florida at Fra Diavolo. Thank you! It was a nice touch of home, far away from home.

Fra Diavolo was excellent and would stand right beside some of the best restaurants in Boston's North End. Nice people, great food.

Speaking of Matt, he, and his teammates at the New England Hockey Journal Radio Show, had some AMAZING guests today, ranging from Marc Savard to Tim Thomas to Cam Neely and Peter Chiarelli.

Make sure you check them out at where many clips are archived and don't miss the New England Hockey Journal Radio show -- the only over air hockey only show on the radio. That is Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

4:35 p.m.
Watching BC try their best to keep the ACC Championship going, but VT just intercepted another ball. Despite the loss, have to say that I like how Matt Ryan plays football.

I've been reading the paper and watching the game and the following caught my eye from The Tampa Tribune:

Tampa Bay has lost four consecutive home games to Boston and is 1-6 against the Bruins since the start of the 2005-06 season...Boston is 6-6-1 on the road...Boston G Tim Thomas leads the league with a .940 save percentage and is fifth with a 2.05 goals-against average.

Nice to hear those stats. Lately I feel like all of the stats have said something opposite. And how about TIM THOMAS. Is that a story or what?

Keep it here...

Then, when they are done, follow the NHL right up to gametime at and the Inside Hockey radio show!

6:16 p.m.
Coach Julien on Zdeno Chara from this morning's skate:
"I think this last game was one of the best games I have seen him (play) in a long time. He was a dominant player at both ends of the ice. For him its just him focusing on what he has to do -- his job -- and when he does that he is an excellent player and that is what we are looking for from him."

7:26 p.m.
Sorry folks, I was running an errand for Chief. Thanks to Fluto Shinzawa of the Globe, here is our probable lineup:

Chara-Ward (sg) Thomas
Alberts-Wideman (bg) Rask
Allen-Stuart Go BRUINS!

9:15 p.m.
I don't mean to gloat, but I think I kind've have to:

HHOF'er Phil Esposito was just introduced to me by HHOF'er Cam Neely.
And for ha-ha's I am sitting next to HHOF'er John Bucyk.

I should probably play 7-8-9 on the numbers tomorrow. Don'tcha think?

Espo agreed to an interview next time we are in. That, my friends, should be a BLAST.

Down 3-1 in the third. Go Bruins!
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