The Tampa Bay Lightning and fans have officially invaded Nashville and are primed and ready for the first outdoor game in franchise history.
“I thought I was in Tampa. It was really cool,” Jon Cooper said after walking down Broadway on Friday afternoon. “Are we an Original Six team? No, we’re not. But we sure do have some marquee players. And you win some Cups and people want to be around the team, and they represent, and they wear our colors, and it’s super cool.”
The Lightning will be playing the Nashville Predators for the first time this season and the first time since last April when the Predators beat the Bolts in Nashville 7-2. The Lightning has had success in Nashville, winning four out of the previous five.
The Stadium Series and Outdoor Classic games are marquee events for the NHL. It’s somewhat surprising that it took this long for one of the best teams in the league and two-time Stanley Cup champions to be featured.
Alex Killorn talked about the excitement leading up to the game on Saturday. “I know every year it seems like when they announce the teams; there’s a couple unhappy guys in the locker room just because it’s such a great experience, A lot of guys in our room, guys that will go down as really good players in the history of this league, haven’t been able to enjoy an outdoor game. Especially after the last two years, it’s fitting that we get one, and we’re super excited.”
The Lightning was on the ice for a practice session on Friday, getting familiar with the ice and the outdoor environment. Jon Cooper said that it brought back many memories for him as a young kid. “It was just your breath coming out when you were cold, and your feet are freezing, and you just want to keep going. It was just like a flood of memories. And I just remember skating with my kids thinking I was their age when I was doing this. And we’re doing it in a huge stadium, and I’m actually getting to be out there with them. That’s what’s great about the game. It just brings it back to when you were a kid.”
The Predators are battling for a playoff spot in the Western Conference as they currently hold down the seventh spot and are five points ahead of the ninth-place team, the Dallas Stars.
The Lightning has yet to get their skates underneath them as they have played just five games so far in February and just two games since February 15th.
The Lightning got off to a better start in Wednesday’s 5-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Corey Perry scored his 400th career goal, and Nikita Kucherov added a goal and an assist in the win.
The Lightning are chasing the Florida Panthers for first place in the Atlantic division. The Lightning trail the Panthers by three points and lead third-place Toronto by two points.
After the game in Nashville, the Lightning will have three games at home before embarking on a six-game road trip that will take them to Western Canada and Seattle.