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Today was an interesting one for the Lightning, who woke up in Prague, spent the day in Berlin and will go to sleep in Bratislava, Slovakia's largest city. I started off the day by hitting the health club for a run, but apparently 7 a.m. is too early on a Sunday in Prague and it was closed. I decided to head outside into the 40-degree morning chill for a jog through the narrow cobblestone streets to the Old Town Square, and I quickly learned two things: First, cobblestones aren't ideal for jogging, as my ankles can attest. Secondly, this Florida boy has no business running in 40 degrees, as my fingers went numb and my lungs quickly froze and felt like the roof of your mouth when you eat a slurpee too fast. Painful.
I recovered in time to join the team for a mid-morning bus to the Letiste Praha (Prague airport) for the short flight to neighboring Germany to face Eisbaren Berlin in an afternoon tilt. Unfortunately we only got to see the airport, arena and everything in between in Berlin, which was a shame. It would have been nice to spend a day to look around. It was about a 30-minute bus ride to the brand new O2 World Arena in Berlin, a beautiful building located just across a river on the former East German side. Directly in front of the arena is about two blocks worth of the Berlin Wall, still intact as a monument to the past.
There was a European soccer crowd atmosphere inside the arena, as the German fans are obviously passionate about their defending champion Eisbaren. Spotted in the crowd near the Lightning bench - Tampa ABC News anchor John Thomas, in town with friends to enjoy Oktoberfest..
Obviously, the big storyline for today's game for Lightning fans was the return to game action by Vincent Lecavalier after off-season shoulder surgery. Though he looked rusty Lecavalier came through fine, which is good news. Another interesting side plot to the game was the return of Olaf Kolzig to the team he played for during the 2004-05 lockout. Kolzig, who is a hero in Germany after backstopping the national team on several occasions, was the star of the first period as Berlin outshot and outchanced the Lightning to gain a 1-0 lead. Tampa Bay righted the ship for the second period en route to a 4-1 win. Kolzig ended up with 34 saves.
The most entertaining part of the game was when Ryan Malone received a game misconduct in the third period for dishing out a little payback to Berlin defenseman Richie Regehr in the form of a pummeling after Regehr ran Steven Stamkos in the corner. Malone will be a fan favorite in Tampa in no time.
After the game it was straight back to the airport for the Czech Air charter to Bratislava, where the Bolts will spend the next two days before taking on HC Slovan on Tuesday. I'll save Bratislava for tomorrow.
Auf wieder sehn!