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Penguins, Lightning players impressed by Johnstown

by David Satriano

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- There has been a noticeable buzz in the area the past few days with the anticipation of the preseason game Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN) between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning as part of Kraft Hockeyville USA here at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.

The Lightning received a warm welcome upon arriving in town, despite a heavy rain and the fact most fans here root for the Penguins; Pittsburgh is a 90-minute drive west

"Did you see the amount of people out there?" Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "It was unreal. I don't know how to describe the pregame skate, being in front of a packed house. I see why they were crowned Kraft Hockeyville. I look at the response we were getting and we were the road team."

Lightning forward Ryan Callahan noted this wasn't just another normal morning skate.

"A lot of guys were saying they think is the biggest crowd for a pregame skate we ever had," Callahan said. "You could feel the energy in the town and could feel the excitement. I think that's going to help us in the game tonight. It's an honor to be a part of."

Even Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was excited to be part of the game, although it meant playing an extra preseason game.

"It's for the fans; it's for the people of Johnstown who obviously worked very hard to get something like this and deserve that and we are happy to be here," Stamkos said. "It reminds me of being back in junior hockey. It's always fun. Feels like the fans are right on top of you. It's going to be a great atmosphere."

Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy agreed with Stamkos on the intimacy of the crowd at the War Memorial.

"This is real. It's so intimate," Lovejoy said. "The stands were packed today but it's almost like the fans were quiet and trying to be respectful of our practice going on. I think a lot of us expected it to be raucous and we expect that tonight.

"This is special. You remember marquee games like this for the rest of your life."

Pittsburgh defenseman Barry Goers grew up in Ivyland, Pa., an hour north of Philadelphia, and said he's been to Johnstown before.

"It's pretty exciting to be part of this experience here in Johnstown," he said. "Growing up, I used to play against the Johnstown youth teams at different tournaments and such, so I'm definitely familiar with hockey here so it's great to come and play."

Goers has spent the past two seasons with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League, and knows to some players like himself, there are jobs to be won with a strong game Tuesday.

"It's definitely an added element to have a game like this," he said. "It's a special game to play in, but at the same time a lot of guys are trying to battle for spots with the team. It's going to be a very competitive game and I think you'll see everyone's best hockey."


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