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Preview/Lines #46: Is Tampa Bay-Florida-Carolina the “Bermuda Triangle” Road Trip?

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Brian Burke called it “Death Valley”.

That’s what teams used to think of the infamous California road trip in the mid-2010’s, when the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks were all physical, big-bodied Cup contenders.

Tomas Hertl, who made his NHL debut in Oct. 2013, remembers those days well: “All the teams hated to go to California because there was like three losses almost guaranteed.”

Should we call the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, and Carolina Hurricanes road trip the Bermuda Triangle then?

“It’s one of the hardest road trips now in the NHL,” Hertl acknowledged.

Tampa Bay, Florida, and Carolina are a staggering 54-11-5 at home this season. The Lightning are two-time defending champs, while the Panthers and the Hurricanes lead their respective divisions.

“Florida is a different building. Now Carolina is a different building than ever was before,” San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner noted. “And of course, Tampa, you don’t have to speak any further on that.”

The Sharks saw that in full effect in Sunrise on Saturday, when the Panthers roared back from a late two-goal deficit to win in an OT.

“You are lucky to come out with a point.”

That’s how Burke described Death Valley. With just one point so far through the Bermuda Triangle, the Sharks are hoping to be better than lucky tonight in Tampa.

San Jose Sharks (22-20-3)

My guess, based on Boughner’s morning skate comments and practice reports from The Athletic and Sharks social media:

Meier-Hertl-Barabanov
Balcers-Couture-Dahlen
Cogliano-Bonino-Nieto
Gadjovich-Pederson-Gregor

Ferraro-Burns
Middleton-Vlasic
Megna-Meloche

Reimer

Mario Ferraro will return after a jaw injury suffered in Florida, while Jake Middleton will return from a concussion suffered in Detroit on Jan. 4.

Tampa Bay Lightning (29-10-6)

Nikita Kucherov will not play tonight.

Where to Watch

Puck drop against Tampa Bay is 4 PM PT at Amalie Arena. Watch it live on NBC Sports California and ESPN+. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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