It’s August, which means it’s officially the last month of summer vacation from the sport we all love. Hockey is surely, but slowly, around the corner. And it’s never too early to start looking ahead to the 2016-2017 schedule.
These are the seven games to put in your phone, clear the evening schedule for and do whatever you can so you don’t miss a single minute.
Red Wings at Lightning (7:30 p.m. Oct. 13)
The first game of the regular season doubles as the home opener. What more do you need to get excited? The Lightning eliminated the Red Wings the last two playoffs so... there’s that going for Detroit.
Devils at Lightning (7 p.m. Oct. 15)
We don’t have to wait long to see the new-look Devils, as New Jersey is in town for the second game of the season. Taylor Hall. His roommate Luke Gazdic. Former Penguin Ben Lovejoy. Fellow former Penguin Beau Bennett. They will be one of the most interesting teams to watch this season. The Lightning will play the Devils two more times.
Lightning at Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. Oct. 25)
The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to get retooled and reworked under the reign of Brendan Shanahan, Lou Lamoriello and Mike Babcock. The biggest addition was through the draft, No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews. No doubt there will be some comparisons and chatter surrounding Matthews and the Lightning’s own No. 1 pick Steven Stamkos.
Lightning at Islanders (7:30 p.m. Nov. 1)
The Lightning kick off the first of seven appearances on NBCSN, which will broadcast a record 106 games during the season. They also return to Barclays Center, where they won two back-to-back come-from-behind overtime games in round two of the playoffs and eventually eliminated the Islanders in five games.
Lightning at Predators (8 p.m. Nov. 21)
The PK Subban trade happened, right? We’re not being punked? Now that he’s moved over to the Western Conference, we only get two opportunities to see him, and this is the first. Oh yeah, Matt Carle is a Predator now too.
Penguins at Lightning (7 p.m. Dec. 10)
It’s the first of three matches of last season’s Eastern Conference Final. There’s no solace in losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, so despite it being in the middle of December, usually a ho-hum time of the season, the Lightning should play to win.
Senators at Lightning (7:30 p.m. Feb. 2)
This will be the Lightning’s second of four meetings against the Senators, but it will be new Ottawa coach Guy Boucher’s first game back in Tampa coaching against the Lightning. In 195 games with the Lightning from 2010-2013, Boucher had a record of 195-97-78-20. Coincidentally, Boucher was fired after a loss against the Senators in 2013.