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With the holiday break in the rear view mirror the Lightning took off at 9 a.m. this morning in order to make it to the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise for their 11:30 a.m. pre-game skate. They went directly to the arena upon their arrival in Ft. Lauderdale as they prepare for the first of a home-and-home series with the Panthers tonight and tomorrow.
It should be an interesting game for the Lightning coming off a 2-0 victory over the Penguins in Pittsburgh on the 23rd. It was a game in which Tampa Bay put forth a solid, all-around, effort that only allowed 15 shots to the high-powered Penguins offense that included Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. That being said, Tampa Bay struggled to build on their last win, which came in Montreal on December 11, and fell to Ottawa two nights later. In talking about tonight's game Rick Tocchet said, "You have to be strong mentally in these types of games. This game is going to be a good test for our club." Hopefully Tampa Bay will ace this test tonight.
The Lightning had an up-tempo morning skate as Tocchet wanted the team to get their energy level up and legs moving after being away for a couple days. The line-up will be the same as the one that won in Pittsburgh with Evgeny Artyukhin in and Ryan Craig out. It appears Mike Smith will get the chance to build on his shutout performance one game ago with another start tonight. Olaf Kolzig is on the trip with the team but Karri Ramo will serve as the back-up tonight while Kolzig recovers from a lingering upper-body injury.