Tampa Bay Lightning eager to drop the puck for Stanley Cup Final

Tampa Bay Lightning eager to drop the puck for Stanley Cup Final
Tampa Bay Lightning captainSteven Stamkosskates during a team practice session Tuesday. Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks is Wednesday. (Chris O'Meara / Associated Press)

Greetings from Amalie Arena, site of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night. For those who wonder about the arena’s name, it’s named for the Amalie Oil Co., a local company that bought the arena naming rights in 2014.

The Tampa Bay Lightning held its morning skate before the Chicago Blackhawks. Lightning players were more than ready to stop talking and start competing.

“I think everybody’s excited. We’ve had a couple of days here to get ready for this,” defenseman Matt Carle said. “There’s been enough talk I guess. It’s time to drop the puck and get playing. The consensus in our room is that we just want to get the series going.”

Team captain Steven Stamkos, who was chosen for the Canadian Olympic team for the Sochi Games but had to withdraw because he hadn’t recovered from a broken leg, was asked if the Final was his Olympics. Stamkos, as always, gave a thoughtful reply.

"You know what? This is the Stanley Cup Final. I dreamed about this more than I ever did an Olympic medal," he said. "I think it's two completely different things. This is a fun stage for our team to be on because of the way we competed throughout the year and deserve this opportunity as a team. I'm excited about that chance."

Left wing Brenden Morrow has waited for this chance for a long time. He reached the Final as a rookie with the Dallas Stars in 2000, when they lost to the New Jersey Devils, and this is his first time back. He never imagined there would be such a gap between appearances, and he appreciates being here.

"Fifteen years for me. I thought I had a good story but Rick Bowness [a Tampa assistant coach] told us he's been in the league 40 years as a player and coach and this is only his third time back," Morrow said. "You hear those stories all the time, about the greats in the league who played for a long time and never even got to play for one. It's tough to do. If you ever get there, just don't expect it to happen all the time.

"We won a Cup and I was in the Final in my rookie year. At that time, there were five, six teams that were favorites going into each season that were spending the payroll, which is not the case anymore."


The Lightning has often gone with 11 forwards and seven defensemen instead of 12 forwards and six defensemen, a strategy that Carle said has served the team well.

"It's just one of those things where when we've done it we've won, so we've stuck with it. Nesty's a great offensive guy and we get some time on the power play there," he said, referring to teammate Nikita Nesterov. "So it's something that's been a recipe for us. It allows our forwards to get a little bit more ice time as well.

"That's something that doesn't get talked about too much. It's tough to get some line matchups for the other team's [defense]. Our lines are always mixing and matching, so it's something that has been good for us."

We'll have more coverage later, after the Blackhawks' morning skate.

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