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Well-traveled Lightning happy to be home

Tampa Bay nearing the end of its road-heavy schedule

by Jacob Lynn /

After a month and a half full of travel days and nights spent in hotels, the Lightning can begin to look forward to the benefits of playing at home.

Tampa Bay has played 32 road games this season, the most of any team in the NHL. By comparison, tonight's opponent, the Detroit Red Wings, have played only 25 games away from home, the fewest in the League.

Not only have the trips been frequent, but they've also been long. In the last few weeks, Tampa Bay has played seven games against Western Conference opponents including their annual swing through Western Canada.

All of the mileage has taken its toll on the Lightning. Tampa Bay hasn't been pleased with some of their performances away from home recently, including dropping both games of a back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday.

"The one thing that weighs into you a little bit is we're a little bit of a distance travel team so there's that extra hour in the flight or hour and a half and it can wear on you," coach Jon Cooper said after morning skate.

Video: Cooper | Pregame TBL vs. DET

It's been a tough stretch for the Bolts who have seen their lead in the Atlantic Division slip to a point over the surging Bruins.

The Lightning will get a brief reprieve from the road, however, beginning a quick two-game homestand tonight against Detroit.

Tampa Bay hopes the excitement of a rivalry game coupled with a supportive crowd can help improve their play.

"…I think coming back against Detroit is going to be a very important, emotional game," forward Yanni Gourde said. "That's the kind of emotion we need all around all year long and I think that it's going to be really good to play these guys tonight."

Video: Gourde | Pregame TBL vs. DET

After Saturday though, the Lightning head back out on the road with stops in Washington, Ottawa and Montreal coming next week.

Following that trip, the Lightning finally see the schedule swing back in their favor.

Stretching from the last week of February through the middle of March, the Bolts will play 10 of 11 games at AMALIE Arena.

"It's going to be amazing," Gourde said. "Our fans are the best and I can't wait to have that stretch at home [so] we can settle down a little bit and play in our building in front of our fans."

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