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No place like home for the Bolts

Strong play at AMALIE Arena a big part of Tampa Bay's hot start

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

With their victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, the Tampa Bay Lightning have started the season 6-0-0 at home for the first time in franchise history.

In fact, going back to last season, the Bolts have won eight in a row at AMALIE Arena and gotten at least a point out of 11 straight at home.

Tampa Bay is one of just two teams in the NHL undefeated at home. And that other team, St. Louis, has played half as many home games as the Bolts have.

So what makes the Lightning so tough at AMALIE Arena?

For starters, familiarity with the rink and the comforts of home certainly play a large part.

"I think you get the crowd support and you're comfortable in your own rink," Lightning second-year pro Brayden Point said. "I think just being home, it's such a good thing. You're sleeping in your own bed and playing in front of your own fans."

Those fans, all 19,092 who have sold out AMALIE Arena for the last 113 games (regular season and playoffs) also push the Lightning to play their best. When the tesla coils are firing and the pump-up music is blaring and the crowd's in full throat before the opening puck drop, the atmosphere gives the Bolts an extra adrenaline boost at the beginning of the game. And a lot of times that great start carries over throughout the game.

"I think we come out strong every night," Lightning forward Yanni Gourde said when asked what makes the Bolts' so tough to beat at home. "We start the right way. We chip the puck in, and we use our speed right away early in the game. I think that makes the biggest difference coming in at home. The crowd is unbelievable every night. It's really fun to play here. We do right away, as soon as the puck drops, we feed off the crowd."

That speed will come into play tonight when the Lightning host the Western Conference's Anaheim Ducks at AMALIE Arena (7 p.m. puck drop). The Ducks are a notoriously physical team. The Lightning have had a lot of recent success against Anaheim utilizing their speed to neutralize the Ducks' power.

Tampa Bay hasn't lost in regulation to Anaheim in over 10 years, and the Bolts have won five in a row at home over the Ducks, outscoring them 20-8 in the process.

"We don't play them that often, but they've been a powerhouse Western Conference team for a number of years," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "The thing that's different with them a little bit is we don't usually see the big heavy teams a lot. And that's what they are. It's definitely a different challenge for us. They're getting healthier. They're still missing some really important pieces of their team but different challenges with a bigger, stronger team."

The Lightning still have some work to do to match their longest home win streak in history when they reeled off nine in a row late in the 2015-16 season.

But the way the Bolts have started the current season, their confidence at AMALIE Arena is at an all-time high.

"We've got a good thing going at home now, and…it's like let's just keep this vibe going regardless who we play," Cooper said.

BUDAJ IN

Peter Budaj will likely get his second start of the season when the Bolts host the Ducks tonight.

Budaj was the first goaltender off the ice from morning skate, a good indicator of which goalie will be in net. Budaj has started just once this season and overcame a shaky start when he gave up three first-period goals to put together a solid performance in a 5-4 shootout loss at New Jersey.

Tampa Bay has won four in a row since that defeat.

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