Tampa Bay Lightning: Early Season Schedule Will Test Bolts Acquisitions

Eric SteitzAnalyst IIIJuly 21, 2012

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 23:  Vincent Lecavalier #4 of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks on during a break in the action against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 23, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Lightning 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning have addressed some of their most glaring weaknesses from the 2011-12 season by adding goaltending and defensive depth. The questions that plagued the Bolts this offseason now appear to have answers. But just how solid are those answers? The Bolts will find out early in the 2012-13 campaign.

Tampa Bay starts its season on Oct. 13 against in-state rival Florida Panthers. The Panthers are the defending Southeast Division champions and a team that pushed the New Jersey Devils to seven games in the opening round of last season's playoffs.

The Bolts then come home for three games, starting with the home opener against the New York Islanders. After the Isles, the Panthers come to Tampa, followed by the Eastern Conference regular season champion New York Rangers.

Four games, three against playoff teams from last season.

Tampa then goes on its Canadian road trip against the Flames, Oilers and Canucks. The Flames should have been a playoff team in 2012, the Oilers get better with every year of experience for that young group and the Canucks won the Presidents' trophy.

A six-game homestand welcomes the Bolts back, but that includes games against the Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators.

Seven of the Bolts' first 12 contests are against playoff opponents from 2011-12.

This will be a great chance for everyone involved with the Lightning to see just how well the offseason acquisitions work and if those questions really found answers.

Is the Anders Lindback-Mathieu Garon tandem the answer to the goaltending question? Can Matt Carle and Sami Salo get the Bolts out of the league's defensive cellar?

The Lightning will find out early, barring injury, just how good they can be in the Eastern Conference and if a return to the glory of 2004 is possible.