It's been over a year since the last complete (read: 82 game) NHL season concluded; a season that featured cross-conference play and a more consistent schedule against divisional and conference opponents.
Now, after the conclusion of the 2013 lockout-shortened season, we get to behold the 2013-14 NHL schedule, the first one under the new divisional and conference alignment that has obliterated the Southeast Division and removed the eastern timezone teams (the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets) from the Western Conference.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will open the season on October 3rd on the road against new divisional rival and the 2013 Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins. Game 2 of the 82 game season gets no easier, with the Lightning venturing to Chicago to play the reigning Stanley Cup Champions on October 5th. Along the way this forthcoming season, Tampa Bay will play all 29 NHL teams, while squaring off with its divisional brethren four times each. The first week of the season sees the Lightning facing three of its new divisional Flortheast" opponents in Boston, the Buffalo Sabres (October 8th) and the Florida Panthers on October 10th, which starts a seven game home stand at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The "Flortheast" Divisions real name is the Atlantic Division (ho hum) and includes the Red Wings, Bruins, Sabres, Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The NHL will go on hiatus in February to participate in the Sochi Olympic games. Here's hoping that Steve Yzerman does not pull a Brian Lawton during that time, that's reference to a dubious piece of team history from the last Olympic break in 2010.
Former Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier returns to town on November 27th with the Philadelphia Flyers. He'll make one more trip to Tampa this season, on April 10th.