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Lightning Round: Looking ahead to January

It’s going to be a busy month for the Bolts

Arizona Coyotes v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images

After a nice month of December that saw the Tampa Bay Lightning solidify their spot in the standings, they officially enter the doldrums portion of the season. The next two months are tough, the allure of the new season has worn off and the playoffs still seem pretty far away.

For the Bolts December was a pretty successful month as they finished 10-3 with one game postponed until March. They were especially strong at home with an 8-1 record and only allowed 18 goals in those 9 games.

They’re going to have to find a way to take that success on the road in January. Of the 13 games they have, 8 are on the road. And these aren’t quick trips to Florida or Carolina. They kick off the month with a road trip to Chicago, Minnesota, and Winnipeg. Then after a couple of games at home they head out on their Western Canada trip. First they stop in St. Louis then it’s Seattle, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary before they come home for three games to finish off the month.

Since they are heading out west, that means some later starts. Luckily, there is only one 10:00 PM EST start, but it is on a Wednesday against Vancouver, so good luck with work the next day. There are two afternoon starts, one against Seattle on Martin Luther King Day, and the other is the following Saturday in Calgary.

They kick off the month with a back-to-back in Chicago and Minnesota and then have one more midway through the month in Vancouver and Edmonton. There are a couple of two-day breaks, but for the most part they are playing every other night. Following their game on the 28th against the Kings, they have 8 days off for their bye week.

Once again there are no Sunday games for them and they do get a Saturday night off (in Winnipeg!). The only home Saturday game is on the 28th against the L.A. Kings. The Minnesota Wild are in town on the 24th and it’s possible that The One That Got Away (Sammy Walker) could be on the roster.

As for the quality of their opponents this could be a good month for them to rack up some wins. Currently, the only teams ahead of them on the standings are the Boston Bruins (1st) and Los Angeles Kings (7th). At the same time, the only three teams in the bottom third of the standings that they play are Chicago (32nd), Columbus Blue Jackets (30th) and Vancouver (25th). Everyone else falls into that 11th-21th spot in the middle of the league-wide standings. That means everyone is going to be fighting for every point.

It is a very, very Western Conference heavy schedule as the only teams they play from the Eastern Conference are the Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins. So that does limit their ability to ascend quickly in the Atlantic Division. A quick look at the Maple Leafs schedule shows that they have a home heavy schedule (10 our of their 14 games) with 6 divisional games for them. This could be a month where the Lighting play really well but don’t gain much traction in the standings.

Hopefully the roll the good times from the end of 2022 into the start of 2023 so that they can keep pace with Boston and Toronto in their division. With the amount of teams bunched into the middle of the standings, they want to stay as far away from the wild card spots as possible.

Lightning / NHL News

As he returns to Chicago, Brandon Hagel has become his own man [Tampa Bay Times]

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Hagel is one of the youngest players on this roster and could be an important part of forming the next core of Lightning leaders. This week he heads back to where things got started for him in the NHL.

Tampa Bay Lightning close out calendar year by side-stepping Arizona [Lightning Insider]

All the elements were in place for the Desert Dogs to lay in wait and catch the unsuspecting Lightning off guard. And like a oasis that turns into quick sand, the Lightning fell in before slowly trying to climb out back on to solid ground.

After an emotionally charged battle two nights earlier, Tampa Bay showed they still had some fight in them to close out 2022, just as they did throughout the past 12 months.

Roman Schmidt suspended for two games [The Record]

The Kitchener Rangers will be without Lightning defensive prospect Roman Schmidt for two games as he was suspended for a slewfoot that took place on Friday against the Peterborough Petes.

Daniil Pylenkov, another blueliner in the organization, received some better news as he was named one of the best players in the KHL for the month of December.

Five Bold Predictions of 2023 [The Hockey News]

If the playoffs were to start today, we would see a Toronto/Tampa Bay rematch in the first round. Honestly, chances are when the playoffs really do start this spring we will see that match-up. The folks over at Hockey News predict the Maple Leafs ending their first round curse if that happens. Cool.