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About 150 Lightning fans arrived yesterday and have basically taken over our team hotel, which makes it feel a little more like home around here. The group, which enjoyed a Prague pub crawl last night, was treated to a private reception with the players after today's open practice at O2 Arena. The Rangers have also arrived and today's practice was the first time the teams have been around each other leading up to the weekend's games. Things are starting to feel a little more serious, which is good this time of year.
As you probably saw the Lightning made a trade yesterday acquiring the rights to HC Slovan defenseman Michal Sersen, who faced the Bolts Tuesday night in Bratislava, from Pittsburgh. The trade marks the second time the Lightning have traveled to Europe and signed a player from an opponent. The first time it occurred was in 1998 when the Lightning held training camp in Feldkirch, Austria. After facing reigning European champions VEU Feldkirch in an exhibition game, Lightning management signed longtime NHLer Kjell Samuelsson to a deal for the season. Sersen still would need to be signed before suiting up.
Veteran defenseman Jamie Heward, who entered camp on a tryout, returned today to take the place of Andrew Hutchinson. Hutchinson cleared waivers today and will be assigned to Norfolk of the AHL.
Here's executive VP of hockey operations Brian Lawton on Hutchinson:
"For whatever reason it's taken him a little bit to get comfortable and he hasn't been playing his game."
After today's open practice we hopped in vans and headed to Lichtenstein Palace for a reception with the Rangers hosted by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. It was a nice event, with armed guards at every turn and tons of gourmet Czech dishes. Czech players from both teams said a few words to the crowd (Vaclav Prospal had the honor for the Bolts) along with the Prime Minister and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Here’s a photo from the event:
Tomorrow the pomp and circumstance ends and we get down to business. The team will practice at 10:30, get some dinner in town and get to bed early in preparation for Saturday’s season opener.