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Burns: 5 intriguing games for the Lightning in 2017-18

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns highlights the five key matchups that stand out this season

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced their schedule for 2017-18, and there are a number of interesting aspects to the 82-game slate for the upcoming season.

For starters, the Lightning schedule is backloaded with home games as the Bolts will play 12 contests at AMALIE Arena over the final two months of the season compared to just six road contests. Tampa Bay will play eight-consecutive away games from January 20 through February 5 with a pair of four-game road trips sandwiched around All-Star Weekend, which the Lightning will host.

What else stands out about the schedule? Let's take a look at five of the more intriguing games the Lightning will play this season (all times Eastern).

Video: PIT@TBL: Vasilevskiy makes save, keeps rebound out

Thursday, October 12 vs. Pittsburgh (7:30 p.m.)

The Lightning get their first crack at the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions in the fourth game of the season. The Bolts, in fact, play both of their home games against the Penguins in the month of October as Pittsburgh will return to AMALIE Arena nine days later on October 21. Tampa Bay makes its only regular season visit to the Steel City a month later on November 25, part of a post-Thanksgiving road back-to-back at Washington (Friday) and at Pittsburgh (Saturday).

Video: Yzerman on positives heading into '17-'18 season

Tuesday, December 19 at Vegas (10 p.m.)

Of course as soon as the 2017-18 schedule dropped, the first thought for many was: When do the Lightning go to Las Vegas? And how much are flights? The game against the Golden Knights comes at the end of a four-game road trip that starts in St. Louis, heads to the Southwest for a meeting with the Coyotes and makes a stop in Colorado before finishing in Vegas. This game will also be the first time the Lightning get a look at former teammate Jason Garrison in his new digs.

Video: MTL@TBL: Palat beats Price for PPG, ties game late

Thursday, December 28 vs. Montreal (7:30 p.m.)

Whether you thought Jonathan Drouin was one of the greatest offensive talents the NHL has ever seen or a one-dimensional player with defensive liabilities, your chance to see him again up close and personal comes in the first game back for the Lightning following the Christmas break. Oh, and it's the first matchup of the season between the Lightning and the Canadiens, which has developed into a pretty heated rivalry the last few years.

Video: EDM@TBL: Kucherov helps Lightning regain lead in 1st

Monday, February 5 at Edmonton (9 p.m.)

The end of January will be a grueling test for Tampa Bay. The Lightning go on a four-games-in-six-nights road trip through the Central Division that finishes back on the East Coast in Philadelphia. Then, the Bolts come home briefly to host All-Star Weekend at AMALIE Arena. Then, they go back on the road for another four-game road trip (this one over seven days) through Western Canada. The final game of that arduous journey comes in Edmonton. The Oilers' brand new Rogers Place is one of the league's truly great arenas. But by this point, not sure the Lightning will have enough energy to fully appreciate the building.

Video: TBL@BOS: Kucherov tallies third career hat trick

Tuesday, April 3 vs. Boston (7:30 p.m.)

 Tampa Bay's final game of the regular season against an Atlantic Division foe, the home game against Boston could have major postseason implications like the last two late-season games against the Bruins have been. Hopefully by this point, the Lightning are working toward wrapping up home-ice advantage in the playoffs and not trying to claw their way into the postseason.

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