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Upcoming road trip provides an important test for Lightning

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning
It’s no easy task to regain momentum following a tough loss, especially when attempting to do so on the road.

But beginning Thursday, that’s just what the Tampa Bay Lightning will set out to do.

The Bolts begin a three-game road trip Thursday in New York against the Rangers, only to have the swing away from home conclude with two back-to-back games over the weekend at Buffalo and Pittsburgh, respectively.

Ryan Malone celebrates a goal in the Lightning's most-recent matchup at the Rangers on Dec. 8, 2011
The stretch proves to be an important test for the Lightning, as two of the three opponents – New York and Pittsburgh – are teams currently being chased by Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference standings, while Buffalo trails the Lightning by just a single point in the playoff race.

Win, and the Bolts could continue to push towards a postseason berth by gaining ground on the clubs in front of them. Lose, however, and the Lightning’s position in the standings goes anywhere but up, while also affording the teams behind it with a juicy opportunity to leapfrog them in the playoff hunt.

“For us, it’s about what we do and not the teams in front of us,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher added. “It’s not about the standings. We really don’t care about that, and when we do that we have a tendency to do very well.”

That might just be the best philosophy considering it has been a long while since Tampa Bay has played on the road.

The Lightning last played away from home on consecutive nights back on Jan. 20 and 21 when it first earned a 2-1 win over Dallas and followed it up with a 4-3 win at Phoenix the very next night. That, however, was just a brief two-game swing, which was preceded by an even shorter one-game stint at Washington the week before. Heading into this current road trip, the team has not competed in more than two games in a visiting arena since it played three from Jan. 3-7 north of the border in Canada.

“It’s huge,” captain Vincent Lecavalier said. “But for us the key is to just worry about New York right now and take one game at a time.”

While it might take time to adjust to being back on the road after such a long layover, it certainly helps that the Lightning head into the trip with nearly a full head of steam.

Tampa Bay goes into Thursday having won six of its past eight games, with points in all but one of those contests.

The lone game without a point came in the Bolts’ most recent outing, a 3-1 loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday night, which proved to be more of a slight speed bump than it did a dead end.

“Yeah, we put ourselves in a little bit of a hole here,” forward Ryan Malone said. “But the guys have been playing great hockey and hopefully we can get back to it this weekend.”
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