Tampa Bay Lightning: 5 Games You Can't Miss
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All the paperwork has been completed, and the NHL season is set to begin—in less than a week! Fasten your seat belts, Tampa Bay Lightning fans. This 20th-anniversary season is going to be one heck of a ride full of games you can’t miss.
The 20th-anniversary campaign is starting a little later than usual, but with $200 season-ticket promotions, it’s tough to not want to be in the seats to be the thunder.
There was no realignment for this season, so the Southeast Division foes remain the same. But with all 48 games against Eastern Conference teams, there will be plenty of must-see games. The schedule comes fast and furious, but here are the five Lightning games you can’t miss this season.
Division rivals Washington and Tampa Bay kick off their seasons Jan. 19.
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Sure, it’s a bit cliché, but opening night is a huge night for the Lightning. Jan. 19, the Bolts host division rival Washington in the first of four contests between these two clubs.
Why is this one so important? It may be a bit early to call this game a “must-win,” but this one will provide a great indication of how much of a contender the Lightning will be this season.
Washington is good. They improved this offseason and have a very solid offense with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich. The Capitals’ strengths were Tampa Bay’s weaknesses last season.
Will the Lightning defense shore up? It will be a physical game, so can the special teams improve?
With Washington under new coach Adam Oates, the Lightning have an advantage in this one. A win will be crucial.
Home opener in front of a rowdy 20th-anniversary crowd, there is a lot to play for on Jan. 19.
February 10, at New York Rangers
Here's one big reason why Tampa's game against the Rangers will be a fun one.
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The New York Rangers are one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference, and who can argue against that? They finished atop the conference standings last season and brought in Rick Nash to help push them over the playoff hump.
This is the second of two matchups against the Rangers. On the road at Madison Square Garden makes things extremely difficult for the Lightning.
The season will be three weeks old, and the conference pecking order will start to emerge. This game caps a brutal four-game road trip that includes Philadelphia, New Jersey and Boston before finishing in NY.
How the Lightning fare on that road trip could be a great indication of if the Lightning have a special season going.
February 21, Host Boston Bruins
A great playoff series in 2011 has sparked a new rivalry in the Eastern Conference
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A young rivalry brewing in the Eastern Conference is the Lightning and the Boston Bruins. All sparked by a fantastic series in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals that required seven games and overtime to decide a winner.
Lightning fans haven’t forgotten that series yet—if they ever will. The Bolts face the Bruins three times this season, with the Feb. 21 contest being the only home game for the Lightning.
This will be almost the halfway point of the season, and there is no better opponent than the Bruins. Expect another hard-fought contest between these two that could be a taste of a future playoff showdown.
February 5, at Philadelphia Flyers
Matt Carle spent the last few seasons in Philadelphia. He will be visiting the City of Brotherly Love in a hostile uniform.
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February is full of quality games for the Lightning. This one is big for a few reasons.
- Matt Carle’s first game against his former team in Philly.
- NBC Sports Network’s first national broadcast for the Bolts.
- It’s the Flyers—a perennial playoff team.
- This is the second of three matchups and the only one on the road.
- The beginning of the brutal four-game road trip against Philly, New Jersey, New York and Boston.
Season Finale, April 27, Host Florida Panthers
With playoff berths and a division crown in the balance, the Lightning and Panthers finish off the 2013 regular season.
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If the Southeast Division is as wide open as it was last season, this game could very well decide a playoff spot—or even a division crown. In-state rivals meet up for the final of five times.
There should be enough drama surrounding this one to warrant attention from around the league—if both teams play to their potential. Florida is the defending division champion. Tampa Bay is just a short drive away and looking to end their anniversary season on a high note before a playoff run.
Will the Lightning be healthy? Will they be in the hunt? How many goals will Steven Stamkos have?
These two foes have a long history and will add five more installments in 2013.
Other Notable Games
Games against the Penguins always bring some well-deserved attention to Tampa.
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January 22: At Carolina, first game against Carolina
January 25: Against Ottawa, honoring Vincent Lecavalier's 1,000 games for the Lightning
January 25-February 2: Longest home stand of the season
February 14: Against Washington, on NHL Network
February 24: At Pittsburgh, NBC Sports Network
April 11: Against Pittsburgh, NBC Sports Network
April 13-18: Last road trip of the season