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by Lightning Insider / Tampa Bay Lightning

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Head coach Barry Melrose gave the team its first day off since camp opened today, though it's not truly a day off since there's a 4 p.m. flight to New York that starts the team's 12-day "European Vacation." I'm sure the players probably appreciate the morning off because there's a lot of packing to do. How exactly do you pack for 12 days and three different countries?

We start things off with the team’s last North American preseason game tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden, followed by an 11 p.m. flight to Prague. I think I’m ready to go – I have the PSP and DVD player charged and my neck pillow from Brookstone is packed – but I know I’m forgetting something.

Last night the team said “goodbye for now” to six more players, which surprises me. I’d expected Brian Lawton and Barry Melrose would probably take about 28 players to New York for tomorrow night, but the roster still stands at 32. Take away Jeff Halpern (knee), Nick Tarnasky (thumb) Vincent Lecavalier (shoulder) and Paul Ranger (shoulder) and you have 28 healthy bodies. I wouldn’t be surprised if that number was down to 23-24 by the time the team departs New York’s JFK International Airport tomorrow night.

Some tough decisions remain. Who among Vladimir Mihalik, Matt Smaby, Mike Lundin, Janne Niskala and Andrew Hutchinson will join Ranger, Matt Carle, Andrej Meszaros and Shane O’Brien on the roster? I think Hutchinson and Niskala will make the cut, but who might be #7 if they keep one? Will there be a trade for a vet?

At forward, something has to give. Konopka has played hard and might be a good choice to take Tarnasky’s roster spot while he’s injured, but what about Ryan Craig, Chris Gratton, Brandon Bochenski, Jussi Jokinen, Michel Ouellet, Jason Ward and David Koci? Most of these guys are NHL forwards, but at least three or four of them will have to go. Should be an interesting couple of days…

We’re not scheduled to reach the hotel in New York until 7:30 tonight, so we’ll probably grab a quick bite and head down to the Village. McSorley’s is a given, but I think we’ll also check out a German spot called Lederhosen I saw profiled on HDNET’s Three Sheets. Or I could walk over to Central Park and watch David Blaine pull off his latest stunt on live TV tonight. I’ll let you know tomorrow.

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