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, Fla. — As the rest of the NHL opened play earlier this week, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers practiced. And practiced. And practiced some more.But finally the last two teams yet to begin their season — at least in North America (Edmonton and New Jersey open in Sweden) — drop the puck Saturday at Amalie Arena.“You get a little jealous of watching the games,” Florida coach Bob Boughner told the team website. “You wish you could not only play one early but play the next one right after. But we’ve had some time here that has allowed us to fine-tune some things here, have some good meetings and have some good practices.”Article continues below ...Both Tampa Bay and Florida enter the season with high expectations, though for completely different reasons.The Lightning are coming off a loss in the Eastern Conference finals to the Washington Capitals, blowing a 3-2 series lead. It marked the second time in three years that Tampa Bay fell in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion in the conference finals.Tampa Bay no longer wants to be seen as a bridesmaid catching the bouquet at the reception. The Lightning want to be holding the prize at the center of the dance floor when the music stops.“It’s a process on how we are going to get there,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “But it’s a hard thing (to get there) and this group has done it year after year. Call it unfinished business.“You don’t know how long that is going to last Custom Vancouver Canucks Jerseys
, but you just have to keep trusting the process in getting there. Look no further than the Washington Capitals, where it was setback after setback after setback and now a lot of those guys that went through a lot of those years got to realize their dreams.“We’re no different, it’s just our setback happened a little later in the playoffs. But there is a reason we keep getting that far and it’s because we have a great group in there and you can see the look in their eyes. Guys are looking forward to getting going.”The Panthers, on the other hand, are looking to get into the playoffs for the second time in four seasons after coming up just short last season. A late-season charge fell just a point short as Florida finished with 96 points — tied for the most points for a team that missed the postseason.After coming so close, the Panthers feel primed to be inside the playoff picture rather than on the outside.“Hopefully, the guys use that bad taste in their mouth from last year http://www.jetsshoppro.com
, being so close,” Boughner said. “We played with pride, but that can be a powerful motivator for this season.”Tampa Bay will start the season without veteran forward Ryan Callahan, who remains out after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery but is on track to return “in the coming weeks,” according to Cooper. Center Tyler Johnson is considered questionable after missing the final two weeks of training camp with an undisclosed upper-body injury.Both Callahan and Johnson have been practicing with the team. The Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers have had plenty of late-game fireworks in recent meetings.The Pacific Division rivals should be just as desperate for a win when they meet for the first time this season on Friday afternoon at Honda Center.Edmonton (10-10-1) will be playing its second game since coach Todd McLellan was fired on Tuesday and immediately replaced by Ken Hitchcock. The Oilers overcame three deficits on the road and beat the San Jose Sharks 4-3 in overtime in Hitchcock’s debut on Tuesday night, their second win in eight games.Article continues below ...“I told them I would coach them hard and they really embraced that,” Hitchcock told reporters after the win. “They have a lot of fun and they’re a loud group and that’s a good thing.”The Ducks (9-9-5) will be trying to ride the momentum of their previous game as well.Anaheim defeated the visiting Vancouver Canucks 4-3 on Wednesday night Winnipeg Jets T-Shirts Womens
, just its second regulation win in the past 16 games.The Ducks have earned enough points in that stretch, while taking advantage of the downturns by other Pacific Division teams, to move into third in the division. Over the past dozen years, about 75 percent of teams holding playoff spots at Thanksgiving have gone on to qualify for the postseason.“We’re taking small steps right now,” said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, who has two points in each of the past two games. “We’re getting better and better. We’re going to continue to build and try to get this group pushing the right way every night and every shift.”Anaheim and Edmonton have appeared evenly matched the past two seasons.In seven of the past eight regular-season games between Anaheim and Edmonton, the outcome has been decided by one goal Winnipeg Jets Hoodies Womens
, including five that went past regulation.The Ducks also won a tight seven-game series against the Oilers in the 2017 Western Conference Quarterfinals. That series turned after the Ducks erased a 3-0 deficit in Game 5, scoring three goals in the final 3:16 with their goalie pulled for an extra attacker. The Ducks then won 4-3 in double-overtime to take a 3-2 series lead.In the third of four meetings between the teams last season, Anaheim forward Rickard Rakell scored two goals in the final 21 seconds of the third period with the goalie pulled, but Edmonton prevailed 6-5 in the shootout.In their final meeting last season, Adam Henrique scored with 1:29 left in regulation and the Anaheim net empty, tying the game 4-4. The Ducks won in overtime on a goal by defenseman Hampus Lindholm, part of a 10-1-1 finish by the Ducks that allowed them to finish second in the Pacific Division.Lindholm has missed the past two games with an upper-body injury Winnipeg Jets Hats Womens
, and Cam Fowler, the second-most seasoned defenseman for the Ducks, was struck by a puck Nov. 12 against the Nashville Predators and had surgery Friday to repair multiple facial fractures.Anaheim has had to insert two more rookie defenseman into the lineup since those injuries, Andy Welinski and Josh Mahura, who joined two other rookie defensemen already in the lineup, Marcus Pettersson and Jacob Larsson.