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Finally; The day Tampa Bay hockey fans have been waiting for. The Lightning open their season (on North American soil) tonight at 7:30 against Carolina, which defeated Florida last night in Raleigh.
The Lightning held an optional skate at the St. Pete Times Forum this morning, and participation was high. Head coach Barry Melrose plans to make the morning skate optional all season long.
“You don’t win the game in the morning,” he said.
As for the lineup, new defenseman Lukas Krajicek arrived this afternoon and will be ready to go while the team isn’t taking any chances with Paul Ranger, who is still out. That leaves tonight’s defensive lineup as Andrej Meszaros, Matt Carle, Mike Lundin, Jamie Heward, Janne Niskala and Krajicek. Melrose said he’ll try to have Meszaros play against Eric Staal’s line as much as possible.
Mike Smith gets the call in net, while Jason Ward (groin), Ryan Craig (groin) and Jeff Halpern are still out. The final forward scratch will be decided after warm-ups.
Fans should remember that the players will walk the red carpet on the Chrysler/Jeep Plaza tonight as they enter the arena, and there will be a party going on inside and outside the St. Pete Times Forum tonight.