Just as the Bruins, who haven't played since May 6, have been doing their best to stay sharp and ready for the Eastern Conference finals, so have the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have been on ice since May 4. The Bolts practiced Monday and Tuesday and will get a day off Wednesday before resuming practice Thursday before flying north to Boston in advance of the series opener Saturday.
Lightning coach Guy Boucher was happy to find out the dates of the Eastern Conference finals, but knows his players are champing at the bit to start the next round.
"I think it helps our people who are in charge of logistics and stuff a little bit more than us," Boucher said Tuesday. "For us, it just makes it long. I think the players are ready to play today and maybe Thursday hopefully, but I guess now Saturday. I guess we'll be on equal ground with the other team who is also waiting but it's been a while now. These guys are competitors. You want to compete on the ice, but at the same time you don't want any injuries at this time of the year so you're kind of dancing one foot on the other. At some time it's time to get on with the show and that's how we're looking at it now."
Boucher's challenge is keeping the players ready physically and mentally.
"I think we need to build it up every day," Boucher said of the layoff. "It is a long stretch and we're trying to do things to keep the guys alive and goaltenders are a part of it too. But I think once that first game starts, their team and our team are going to try and find their game mode as fast as they can."
Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos agreed and said he and his teammates are eager for the next round to begin.
"We've got to prepare, we've got to get our legs on the ice," Stamkos said. 'We've got to get our hands going and get our brain going. This has been a long wait right now. It's good to get the body rested, but guys are getting anxious now and excited so it's nice to know when we're playing."