Lightning earns home-ice advantage throughout conference playoffs

- Some coaches and players say the playoffs are almost like a new season. It's an opportunity to hit the reset button. 

"Throw out the seedings, throw out all that stuff. It doesn't matter," said head coach Jon Cooper. "You've got one team to play against, and you have to get by them." 

"I think it's a pretty fresh start once you get into the playoffs," offered Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. "The regular season is the regular season. We all know that." 

Stamkos returned to the ice in Brandon Monday, after sitting out the last few games of the regular season with what the team called a lower-body injury.

"It was something that was obviously tough, you want to be in those games," he said. "But, the more important games are now and just to make sure I try to feel as good as possible heading into the playoffs." 

And now the Lightning -- the Atlantic Division champions -- know they'll enjoy home ice advantage throughout the conference playoffs, after the Panthers defeated the Bruins in their regular season finale. It's advantageous, of course, but it's not the end-all be-all, if you ask Cooper. 

"Having home ice, that could be gone in Game 1," he explained. "We've been in series where we've lost the first game at home, we've lost the series, and we've come back to win the series. The home ice is good in the sense you get to start the playoffs at home, it's good in the sense you get Game 7 if there is one. But, by no means does it mean you're going to win the series." 

The Lightning's chase for the cup will have to go through New Jersey. The Lightning were winless against the Devils three times in the regular season. 

"Hopefully we can use some of the experience that we have as team," said Stamkos. "I know they've got some guys that are playing their first playoff game. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage." 

Time to hit that reset button and repeat. 

Here is the Lightning's schedule versus the Devils: 

Game 1: Thursday, 7pm at Amalie Arena
Game 2: Saturday, 3pm at Amalie Arena
Game 3: Monday, April 16 7:30pm at New Jersey
Game 4: Wednesday, April 18 7:30pm at New Jersey
Game 5 (if needed): Saturday, April 21 (time TBD) at Amalie Arena
Game 6 (if needed): Monday, April 23 (time TBD) at New Jersey
Game 7 (if needed): Wednesday, April 25 (time TBD) at Amalie Arena

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