TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning earned a division title by a single point on the final day of the regular season, but even the top seed in the Eastern Conference only did them so much of a favor.
The Lightning open the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Thursday against a New Jersey Devils team that swept them in three regular-season meetings, presenting a real challenge as Tampa Bay hopes to start a deep postseason run.
New Jersey is in the playoffs for the first time since losing in the 2012 finals, so many of the Devils players are new to the energy and urgency of playoff hockey. The Lightning don't want to make that out to be too tremendous an advantage.
"Experience is what you make of it," said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, whose team missed the playoffs last year but made the finals and conference finals in 2015 and 2016. "Naturally, it's good to have gone through some of these situations before, but I look at our team in 2015, we didn't really have much experience and we were able to get through." << Read more
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