Very little thunder goes with Lightning

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

How revved up am I for the Sens-Lightning series? Honestly, I'm not sure yet.

I took in the first game at home, parked on my scarlet-coloured couch, while eating ketchup-flavoured rice chips (new school, low-caloric Canadiana). I also got a pedicure yesterday. The shade used was named, "Get Crimson." Surely that's got to count for something.

I'm feebly attempting to outwardly express my team spirit, but on the inside, I'm a ball of misplaced, unexpressed rage. Am I really supposed to get my back up over Tampa? Am I expected to throw all of my effort into slagging the Lightning -- the other blue and white team? Can't I pace myself in the hopes that we'll eventually play Carolina?

(Aside -- I can't stand the Hurricanes. All 68 of their fans possess the ability to irritate me and this year's squad was subject to the same benefits as Detroit. In short, any team can look unstoppable if they're pummelling a weak division. But cheering against No. 12 isn't fun -- after all, I hail from the birthplace of Staalapalooza. Thank God there will eventually be three other brothers to follow.)

I have no problem with Tampa. I've visited that fair city a number of times. Murders in the place adjacent to my hotel, octogenarian driving habits on the I-75 and Cuban sandwich-related food poisoning weren't enough to keep me away.

I don't have issues with them, and apparently, neither do a lot of Sens fans. Have you read the some of the Internet message boards lately?

Sens fan: "Great job guys! Grahame looked solid ... you guys had me worried! Good luck in Game 2!"

'Ning fan: "Thanks for the polite response! See you on Sunday!"

This is what the Stepford Wives would sound like if they discussed playoff hockey. No word if the fans were wearing floral prints when they wrote these saccharin missives to each other. I'm being facetious, but can you really blame them?

What can anyone despise about the Tampa Bay Lightning or its supporters? Vaclav Prospal isn't Darcy Tucker. Lightning fans aren't going to show up at the SBP and parade a cardboard cutout of John Grahame through the arena. When you're coming off so many vicious playoff rounds against a despised foe, a series involving an opponent like the Lightning almost has a bizarre, Lady Byng-esque quality to it.

What am I supposed to mock? John Tortorella's follicles? (For the record, he could have a Mel Kiper Jr. 'do if he put in the effort.) Am I expected to make Martin St. Louis vs. Zdeno Chara jokes? (I wouldn't dare -- cracks on their height difference are extremely tired.)

It's still early and things don't need to get nasty, but when you've got barely any venom built up against your opponent, it changes the playoff series dynamic dramatically. Tampa may not produce the vitriol that Sens fans are used to, but there is one tidbit of info about them that should get under your skin -- when they won the Cup, they placed it in the Florida sand.

That's just wrong. And it should be enough to rev anyone up.

BLACK ACES: Ottawa's "Black Aces" were called up from Binghamton last week (Steve Martins, Denis Hamel, Kelly Guard and Filip Novak) -- have you ever wondered about the Aces' origin? When you have a query like this, there's only one person to ask: Hockey trivia expert Liam Maguire. He said the term originated with Eddie Shore -- the owner of the AHL Springfield Indians. Shore gave the moniker to any player who was working his way back into the regular lineup. These were players who were coming off of IR, or being punished for various reasons. In addition to working out with the team, they also did odd jobs around the arena, such as painting seats and tending concessions. Can you envision a present-day Steve Martins making you popcorn during intermission?

THUNDER BLUNDER: Why did the Sens' marketing team go back to distributing the horrific thundersticks? Nothing says passion like the thumping of inflated plastic. Towels should be de rigueur in Ottawa as a tribute to Roger Neilson and to change it up, why not make them red?

ON THE POLL: Have you seen ESPN.com's NHL awards poll? To start with, they've included Marek Svatos for Hart consideration. Then there's the issue of Barry Trotz for the Jack Adams -- apparently he coaches the "Predatos". Sounds like a breakfast cereal.

ERINNICKS@YAHOO.CA


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