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Can't wait to get on the road again

The Lightning has at least one win away from home each series.

TOM JONES
Published May 29, 2004

CALGARY - The telephone didn't ring off the hook last night. No one called for tickets. Wives didn't need help with the dishes. Kids didn't need help with the baths.

The grass wasn't cut. The laundry wasn't folded. The carpet wasn't vacuumed.

The Lightning didn't do anything but think about hockey Friday night, and when you're tied 1-1 in the Stanley Cup final, thinking about throwing a check on an opponent is a whole lot better than writing a check for the electric bill.

"I'm glad we're on the road," Lightning coach John Tortorella said when he arrived late Friday afternoon. "I think it's good to get away now from some of the distractions. We get to hang out a little bit as a team. I think when you get on the road, some of those distractions going away allows you to concentrate on what we're really doing here."

That's a good explanation as to why the Lightning is 5-2 on the road in these playoffs. The Flames are even more impressive on the road. They are 9-2, but, oddly enough, 4-5 at home.

Sometimes home isn't so sweet.

Or, perhaps a better way to put it, is the road isn't always that sour. Tortorella believes so much in removing outside distractions he has his team staying in a hotel in Tampa during the home portion of the playoffs. It's his way of recreating the feel of the road, but nothing beats the real thing.

"On the road, you have a lot more time to focus," Lightning defenseman Darryl Sydor said. "At home, little things like people calling you and stuff like that, can be a distraction. On the road, you're with your team every minute. That allows you to focus."

But there is more to playing on the road than being away from distractions.

When the Lightning takes the ice tonight for Game 3, it will be skating into the Red Sea. That's what Calgary fans, dressed all in red and screaming their throats raw, call themselves inside the Pengrowth Saddledome.

That, for the Lightning, is a good thing.

"When you play on the road in the playoffs, the crowd is usually booing, so that's a little extra something to get you fired up out there," Lightning defenseman Cory Sarich said. "Any time you play in front of a good full crowd that gets you right into things. That's better than playing in a empty barn."

Tortorella calls the Lightning, and all hockey players, first and foremost performers.

"They want to play in front of people no matter what the people are doing," Tortorella said.

What those people will be doing is booing Vinny Lecavalier, cursing Martin St. Louis and insulting Brad Richards. And they'll cheer on the Flames with the simple, but classic chant of "Go, Flames, Go."

"It always gives you energy," Sydor said. "They'll be going crazy, the music will be loud, all this will be going on and it will get you going, too. By no means does it set you back."

The Lightning has lost two in a row on the road, but also has won in every building it has played during the postseason. It won two games on Long Island. It won two games in Montreal, where the crowd was as loud and electrifying as any in the NHL. And it won a game in Philadelphia in front of the orange-crush fans.

Now it looks to take its Stanley Cup run on the road to one more stop: Calgary.

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