The Lightning start a new era Thursday night as they host the Sabres at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Head coach Jon Cooper says a cloud that was hanging over this team has been lifted.
Cooper acklowledges the past, paying tribute to Martin St. Louis, calling Marty one of this team's all-time greatest players.
The trade deadline has passed and the Bolts know this will be "our group" going forward for the next 20 games and potentially into the playoffs.
"Whether this was right or wrong... it's gonna help or hurt, we dont know the answer to that question today," Cooper said. "But it has brought kind of a new -- I don't know if invigorating's the word -- just a new kind of life to our team."
Steven Stamkos returns to game action after missing the last 45 with a broken leg.
Stammer couldn't wait.
"I feel great. It's nice to actually have a morning skate where I'm part of the line, so it's exciting. I'm sure as this day progresses (I may) be anxious, a little more nervous heading into the game."
Lightning coaches and staff do not feel pressure to name a new captain quickly. Certainly Stamkos is part of that conversation and he does want to lead this team.
"Whether that happens in the next five minutes, five days or five weeks, when we feel comfortable to name our captain, we will," Cooper said.
Ryan Callahan makes his Bolts debut, arriving in Tampa Bay in the trade for Marty St. Louis.
"The start's a little bit hectic just trying to get everything organized," says the former Rangers captain. "The Lightning have been great getting everything set up for me. I got in about 10 o'clock last night and I'm excited to get going today."
Jon Cooper says Ryan Callahan brings "snarl" to the Lightning. The Bolts new forward explains: "Snarl is just toughness, being able to play, how hard you work... That's something I pride myself on."
The Lightning pride themselves on handling adversity well.
"I think now that all this is over we can all breathe a sigh of relief," Stamkos said. "Marty's gone, the trade deadline's over. This is our group. We have 20 games left. No matter what happens, these are the guys we're gonna go to battle with every day and we have to take advantage of that."
The Bolts have dropped in the division standings from 2nd to 4th over the course of the first road trip since the Olympic break. Now that the Lightning return home for a stretch, the main focus shifts to winning on home ice, adding up the points, making a push for the playoffs.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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