Apr 16, 2013; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate a goal by Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis (26) during the first period against the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Center. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning October Preview

Hockey season is almost here! We are only 34 days away from the first official puck drop of the 2013-14 Tampa Bay Lightning hockey season. Today, we will take a look at what October has in store for the Bolts.

March 2, 2013; Boston, MA USA; Tampa Bay Lightning players including right wing Teddy Purcell (16) , right wing Martin St Louis (26) , center Nate Thompson (44) , center Steven Stamkos (91) and center Alex Killorn (17) celebrate a goal during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Our favorite boys in blue will start the 2013-14 season out on the road; first stop, the TD Garden in Boston.

Steven Stamkos and the rest of the Tampa Bay Lightning will come face to face with Zdeno Chara and the Boston Bruins on October 3rd. When that first puck drops, hockey season will officially be in full swing.

Can the newly revamped Bolts take down the Bruins in their own house? I think so.

With the changes that Lightning Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman made to the roster during the offseason with the additions of rookie Jonathan Drouin and former Detroit Red Wings center Valtteri Filppula, I think Bolts fans are going to be in for quite a surprise this season.

Next stop on the three-game opening road trip is United Center in Chicago where they will go head to head with the Jonathan Toews and the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

This will be one of the bigger challenges that the Lightning will face in the beginning of the season.

Jun 24, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) celebrates with right wing Patrick Kane (88) after scoring a goal against the Boston Bruins during the second period in game six of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Blackhawks have a lot of firepower in their lineup. Both Patrick Kane and captain Jonathan Toews had a team leading 23 goals apiece during the regular season last year.

Even defenseman Duncan Keith scored a total of 27 points during regulation. They are definitely going to make the Lightning work for every block and every save along the way.

The last stop on the Bolts opening road trip will be at the First Niagara Center when they come face to face with Thomas Vanek and the Buffalo Sabres.

While this will certainly be no walk in the park, it will surely be less arduous than their encounter with the Blackhawks.

The Bolts will definitely want to neutralize Thomas Vanek and center Cody Hodgson. Beyond that, it will be all about avoiding the defense and getting pucks in the back of the net.

From there, the Tampa Bay Lightning brings the party back to the Tampa Bay Times Forum for a 7 game home stand.

When the Bolts come home on October 10th, we will face off with the in-state rival Florida Panthers.

The players to look out for are going to be Tomas Fleischmann and Jonathan Huberdeau.

Should Radko Gudas and Victor Hedman be able to keep the two of them away from the net, this game should go rather smoothly.

Not that the Panthers have ever really been a force to be reckoned with, when you start underestimating your opponent, that will be their opportunity to strike, and that could pose problems throughout the season.

The next team to roll into the Tampa Bay Times Forum is going to be the dynamic duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 12th.

February 24, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) prepare for a face off during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This is going to be one of the more important games of the season.

Crosby is arguably the biggest scoring competition to Steven Stamkos.

It will be imperative that the defense and goaltender be on point that night. Both Crosby and Malkin, nor any of the other Pens are going to hold back.

This early in the season it will be important for the Bolts to set the tone for the upcoming season by not backing down and getting as many points as they can at the start of the season.

The next team to roll into the forum will be Dustin Brown and the Los Angeles Kings on October 15th.

This is another one of those teams that the Bolts are going to have to be on their game for.  The 2012 Stanley Cup Champions have made an appearance in the playoffs every season since 2009.

While they may not have a player like Stamkos that we can look to as their main scorer, they have quite a few people on their roster that are skilled at finding the back of the net. Centers Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and Mike Richards, along with RW Justin Williams all scored over 30 points last season.

This is not even taking into account that they have a goaltender like Jonathan Quick to keep pucks out of the net. While this may be a very difficult task for the Bolts, a victory here is far from out of the question.

Coming into town next will be Mikko Koivu and the Minnesota Wild on October 17th.

Mar 30, 2013; St. Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Zenon Konopka (28) celebrates the win with goalie Niklas Backstrom (32) following the game against the Los Angeles Kings at the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Kings 4-3 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

This is going to be a battle for the Bolts. The Wild have two hard hitting players on their roster right now, Matt Cooke and Zenon Konopka.

The Wild acquired the former Pittsburgh Penguin as a Free Agent on July 5th. Bolts fans are already familiar with Konopka. Most of you remember him in Lightning blue. He played for the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2008-10.

Both of them skate hard and play hard, and neither of them are afraid to drop the gloves when the situation comes to call.

In the last 3 games of the home stand we will get a second run at the Bruins, Blackhawks, and Sabres respectively.

Hopefully, by this point in the game, the Bolts will have established themselves In their division and acquired a good number of points. That way, they will have momentum on their side when these teams roll into their house.

Heading back out on the road on October 27th, the Bolts will head to Sunrise at the BB&T Center as they face off with the Panthers once again.

The Bolts will end the month of October on the road as they head to Prudential Center to face off with Patrik Elias and the New Jersey Devils.

This is going to be an interesting challenge for the Bolts.

I am not as concerned about the amount of firepower that the Devils have at their disposal as I am their protection in net. Having both Martin Brodeur and the newly acquired Cory Schneider in net for the Devils, the boys in blue are going to have to work that much harder for find the back of the net.

Although, with the prospect of having Stamkos, St. Louis, Filppula, and Drouin all Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper’s disposal, I am not too worried about our chances. As long as the Bolts do what they do best, they should be able to finish off the month on a high note.

While we won’t have a true grasp of how the season is going to play out until the puck actually drops for the first time, with what I know about our newly revamped Lightning roster, I think that the opportunity for us to return to a playoff-bound team is definitely there. In fact, it is theirs for the taking. All they have to do is leave it all out on the ice.

Where do you think the Tampa Bay Lightning will be in the standings when October comes to a close? Will the Lightning be able to capitalize on the opportunities in front of them, or will they fall just a little short? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think.

 

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