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Picking up miles: Bolts set to begin another extended road swing

Tampa Bay's four-game trip begins on Tuesday with a divisional matchup vs. Buffalo

by Bryan Burns /

The Tampa Bay Lightning begin a four-game road trip on Tuesday when they take on the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center.

For the Lightning, the upcoming trip will be the second extended road swing in a month to start the 2018-19.

Their first road trip was the longest of the season: five cities over eight days through the Western Conference.

The trip that starts Tuesday will be a little closer to home with stops in Pittsburgh (Thursday), Philadelphia (Saturday) and Nashville (Monday) on the itinerary following the Buffalo game. The length and number of games played on these extended road trips can be daunting, especially for a player like Ryan McDonagh, who came to the Lightning organization at last season's trade deadline and is used to the shorter jaunts through the northeast as a member of the New York Rangers for the majority of his career.

Video: Ryan McDonagh on the Buffalo Sabres

"It's been a little bit of a change, not used to such long road trips in such short spans," said McDonagh, who ranks tied for 12th among NHL defenseman for scoring currently with 12 points. "I'm learning and trying to get better myself to be prepared down the end of the road trip. We rely on our trainers for sure, a lot of work there in the training room and the strength coach getting us prepared and keeping our conditioning where it's at. Most importantly, you've just got to be really good about your sleep and taking care of yourself with all the travel you go through. Everybody's pretty aware we're getting into the thick of the season here. Bumps and bruises are adding up and you've got to take care of yourself for sure."

The Lightning will look to bounce back from a demoralizing 6-4 loss to Ottawa Saturday night when they take on the Sabres in Buffalo. In the Ottawa defat, the Bolts held a 4-2 lead going into the third period but gave up four unanswered goals, ending their four-game win streak snapped. The loss was the first this season for the Lightning against an Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division opponent.

Tampa Bay has responded well to losses previously over the last two seasons. The Lightning are 4-0-0 this season in games following a loss and 22-8-0 over the last two seasons. The Bolts are also 12-2-0 since the start of last season in games following a loss where they allowed five or more goals.

"It's time to reset," Lightning forward Tyler Johnson said of the upcoming road swing. "We've got to have a good road trip, get some wins here. It's all about the start and trying to get some momentum right away."

Video: Tyler Johnson on the upcoming road trip

The Lightning will have extra motivation once the road trip hits the midway point. On Friday, the fathers of Lightning players, coaches and staff will join the team in Philadelphia and continue with the team through Saturday's game against the Flyers and Monday's contest in Nashville against the league-leading Predators. The annual dad's trip is a way for players to give their fathers a behind-the-scenes look at everything that goes into preparing for a road game.

"I think everyone's always excited to have the dads in," Johnson said. "It just makes it a lot more fun. You get to experience it with them, which is cool. Having it at the end of the trip I think will help us out a little bit here."

McDonagh will experience his first dad's trip as a member of the Lightning. But he's been on a few while with the Rangers and always relishes the memories made and the opportunity to spend more time with his dad during the grind of the NHL regular season.

"It's something to look forward to," McDonagh said. "They're great memories. It kind of rejuvenates you there on a long road trip. They inject a lot of life into our group as well. You want to play well when you know your dad's at the rink too, so that'll be an extra boost for our motivation."

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