TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning’s road to a three-peat runs through Sunrise and the Florida Panthers.
The in-state rivals begin their second-round series Tuesday at 7 p.m. at FLA Live Arena.
The cross-state rivals met during last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Lightning knocked out the Panthers in a tight six-game first-round series. Now the teams meet in the second round with more than Sunshine State bragging rights on the line.
“I think so, I think there is some animosity,” Lightning forward Alex Killorn said. “When you play a team as much as we play Florida, not just in the playoffs, in the season, exhibition games, you just build animosity to a team like that due to the fact you play so much.”
“I think it is great for the hockey in this state too to have two teams going to the second round and having that rivalry in-state,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “We are very much looking forward to it.”
The Bolts and Panthers met four times this season with each team winning twice. But, Tampa Bay will likely be without center Brayden Point for Game 1.
Head coach Jon Cooper said Point is “highly doubtful” after suffering a lower-body injury in Game 7 against Toronto.
“It’s a next-man-up mentality,” Killorn said. “Pointer brings a bunch to this team. I think you know how much he brings. Luckily in the past, we’ve dealt with this in the season. We can kind of draw from certain experiences. He’s a big-time player, and makes a ton of big-time plays. It will be tough to replace him.”
Lightning fans can watch the action at Thunder Alley at Amalie Arena. The team is hosting a watch party which begins at 6 p.m.