As probably most people know by now, the NHL released their 2009-2010 regular season schedule yesterday. Since the NHL offseason is a long two and a half months that is typically completely devoid of anything hockey (this year being an exception due to Olympic Orientation Camps at the end of August), most hockey fans treat the release of the schedule as sort of a mini-hockey holiday. Anything to get you thru the hockey desert known as July and August, you know?
I don't know about the rest of you, but I start planning out what games I want to go to for those six months of the regular season. Although, I don't really start doing that in earnest until rosters are finalized in September, but I like to sketch in what teams I'd like to see play now and then alter those plans accordingly later. So in order to get a head start on the season, here are some of the highlights in the Tampa Bay schedule to look forward to.
- Game 1 (3 October): Tampa Bay at Atlanta. Start the season off right with a Southeast Division team.
- Game 3 (8 October): New Jersey at Tampa Bay. First home game of the season. Also the first game against Jacques Lemaire in his second stint as the Devils head coach.
- Game 7 (17 October): Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh. First time that the Lightning go up against the 2009 Stanley Cup Champions.
- Game 8 (22 October): San Jose at Tampa Bay. Dan Boyle's first return to Tampa after having been forced to waive his no-trade clause back in July 2008 with the Western Conference Champions.
- Games 12-15 (2-7 November): First multi-game road trip of the season. First swing into Canada as well. Game 12 (2 November) is the first time the Lightning will have to face Philadelphia and Chris Pronger, as well as Antero Niittymaki's first game against his previous team. Games 13 (3 November - Toronto), 14 (5 November - Ottawa), 15 (7 November - Montréal) is the Canada portion of the trip.
- Game 18 (16 November): Tampa Bay at Phoenix. The Coyotes are still in Phoenix, and this might very well be the last time that the Lightning get to visit that city before the team possibly moves.
- Game 24 (28 November): Tampa Bay at Dallas. The Lightning visit their old friend Brad Richards in the Lone Star State. First return to Dallas since being traded for Mike Smith and Jeff Halpern.
- Game 25 (30 November): Colorado at Tampa Bay. The first opportunity to see the third pick overall in the 2009 Entry Draft, Matt Duchene.
- Game 26 (2 December): Tampa Bay at Boston. First time seeing Mark Recchi and the 2009 Eastern Conference Champion Bruins.
- Game 28 (5 December): NY Islanders at Tampa Bay. The first time the first overall pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, John Tavares, visits Tampa. Also the first game Tavares and Victor Hedman will go head-to-head in.
- Game 29 (7 December): Washington at Tampa Bay. The first game against the 2009 Southeast Division Champions.
- Game 32 (13 December): Tampa Bay at Chicago. Matt Walker's first game back in his old arena.
- Game 34 (17 December): Tampa Bay at Detroit. The one and only game against the 2009 Western Conference Finalists.
- Game 41 (2 January): Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay. Halfway point in the season.
- Game 58 (9 February): Vancouver at Tampa Bay. The first time ever that Mattias Ohlund plays against his old team, the Canucks, after having played in Vancouver for 11 seasons.
- Game 61 (14 February): Tampa Bay at NY Rangers. Last game before the two-week Olympic Break.
- Game 62 (2 March): Philadelphia at Tampa Bay. First game after the Olympic Break.
- Games 81 (10 April) and 82 (11 April): Florida vs. Tampa Bay. Finishing out the season with back-to-back, home-at-home games with the Panthers. Game 81 is the last regular season game at home for the Lightning. Game 82 is at Sunrise. Ending the season as it starts - against the Southeast Division.
Feel free to add any other games that you think I might've missed in the comments.