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Burns: Previewing the Lightning's Opening Week home stand

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning start the 2014-15 season with four-straight games at home, three of which come against Atlantic Division foes. With the season opener against the Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena one day away, we break down each opponent, reviewing how the Lightning fared against each team a year and what to watch for during the upcoming home stand.

Florida Panthers

Florida scored just 188 goals in 2013-14 (2.29/game), ranking next to last in the National Hockey League. LW Brad Boyes (21) was the only Florida player to score more than 20 goals last season. The Panthers should be improved defensively with the return of franchise icon Roberto Luongo, who was added in a trade in March. Florida has made the postseason only once – that coming during the 2011-12 season -- dating back to 2001.

Time/date: 7:30 p.m., Thursday, October 9

2013-14 head-to-head results:
Oct. 10, 2013 at TB: Lightning 7, Panthers 2
Oct. 27, 2013 at Florida: Lightning 4, Panthers 3 (shootout)
Dec. 23, 2013 at Florida: Lightning 6, Panthers 1
March 13, 2013 at TB: Lightning 5, Panthers 4

Player to watch: C Nick Bjugstad -- A 6-foot-6 center, Nick Bjugstad led Florida in points as a rookie during the 2013-14 season with 38. The Minneapolis, Minn., native projected to be the Panthers top center scored 16 goals and added 22 assists a season ago. 2014-15 could be the season Bjugstad makes a splash on the national scene as he’ll be on the top line surrounded by better players.

Lightning stats vs. Panthers:
Steven Stamkos: 3 GP, 5 goals, 3 assists, 8 points, +5
Valtteri Filppula: 4 GP, 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points, +3
Ben Bishop: 3 GP, 3-0-0, 7 GA, 70 SV, 2.33 GAA

Panthers stats vs. Lightning:
Brad Boyes: 4 GP, 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points, -3
Nick Bjugstad: 3 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, -1
All-time record (regular season): Florida leads 57-35-10-11

Ottawa Senators

Ottawa was abysmal on defense last season, giving up 258 goals, an average of 3.15 a game, to rank 27th in the NHL. After making it to the Easter Conference Semifinals in 2012-13, the Senators’ goals-against average increased by over one goal per game, and they missed out on the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. Long-time Senators standout C Jason Spezza is gone, having been traded to the Dallas Stars for RW Alex Chiasson among others.

Time/date: 7 p.m., Saturday, October 11

2013-14 head-to-head results:
Dec. 5, 2013 at TB: Lightning 3, Senators 1
Jan. 23, 2014 at TB: Lightning 4, Senators 3 (shootout)
Jan. 30, 2014 at Ottawa: Senators 5, Lightning 3
March 20, 2014 at Ottawa: Lightning 5, Senators 4
March 24, 2014 at TB: Senators 4, Lightning 3 (shootout)

Player to watch: D Erik Karlsson – Karlsson finished seventh in the NHL with 54 assists in 2013-14 and added 20 goals for a team-high 74 points, which ranked 14th in the league. Three seasons ago, Karlsson registered 78 points and won the Norris Trophy. Two seasons ago, he had his Achilles tendon lacerated in a game, forcing him to miss a portion of the season.

Lightning stats vs. Senators:
Ondrej Palat: 5 GP, 1 goal, 8 assists, 9 points, +1
Victor Hedman: 5 GP, 2 goals, 6 assists, 8 points, +4
Tyler Johnson: 5 GP, 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points, +6
Ben Bishop: 5 GP, 3-0-1, 12 GA, 122 SV, 2.87 GAA

Senators stats vs. Lightning
Erik Karlsson: 5 GP, 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points, 0 +/-
Kyle Turris: 5 GP, 2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points, -2
Robin Lehner: 3 GP, 1-2-0, 11 GA, 77 SV, 3.63 GAA

All-time record (regular season): Ottawa leads 50-26-2-4

Montreal Canadiens

Tampa Bay will be looking for payback after the Canadiens knocked the Lightning out of the Eastern Conference playoffs with a four-game sweep in the first round. It’s been 21 seasons since Montreal won the Stanley Cup, but the Canadiens feel they have the squad to break that streak after making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. The acquisitions of RW P.A. Parenteau, D Tom Gilbert and C Manny Malhotra should make Montreal even better than a season ago.

Time/date: 7:30 p.m., Monday, October 13

2013-14 head-to-head results (regular season):
Nov. 12, 2013 at Montreal: Lightning 2, Canadiens 1 (shootout)
Dec. 28, 2013 at TB: Canadiens 2, Lightning 1 (shootout)
Feb. 1, 2014 at Montreal: Lightning 2, Canadiens 1 (overtime)
April 1, 2014 at TB: Lightning 3, Canadiens 1

Player to watch: D P.K. Subban – Re-signed to an eight-year, $72 million deal in the offseason, making him the highest paid defenseman in the NHL, Subban proved his value to the Canadiens with his most productive season, scoring ten goals and registering 43 assists. He was even better in the preseason as he led the Canadiens in points (14) and average time on ice (27:26).

Lightning stats vs. Canadiens (2013-14 regular season):

Victor Hedman: 4 GP, 4 assists, 4 points, +1
Ondrej Palat: 4 GP, 3 assists, 3 points, +1
Ben Bishop: 4 GP, 3-0-1, 4 GA, 101 SV, 0.94 GAA

Canadiens stats vs. Lightning (2013-14 regular season):
Daniel Briere: 4 GP, 2 goals, 2 points, 0 +/-
Brian Gionta: 4 GP, 2 assists, 2 points, +1
Carey Price: 4 GP, 1-1-2, 6 GA, 131 SV, 1.42 GAA

All-time record (regular season): 40-30-6-4

New Jersey Devils

Since 1993-94, G Martin Brodeur was the face of the Devils franchise, occupying the net for 20 seasons and three Stanley Cup victories. But after splitting time with Cory Schneider last season, the 42-year-old Brodeur is no longer with the Devils, and Schneider is the unquestioned No. 1 between the posts after compiling a 16-15-12 record with a 1.97 GAA and .921 SV%

Time/date: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, October 14

2013-14 head-to-head results:
Oct. 29, 2013 at NJ: Devils 2, Lightning 1
Dec. 14, 2013 at NJ: Devils 3, Lightning 0
March 15, 2014 at TB: Lightning 3, Devils 0

Player to watch: RW Jaromir Jagr – The ageless wonder, Jagr had his best statistical season last year since 2007-08, recording team highs for assists (43), points (67), plus-minus (+16) and game-winning goals (6). Entering his 21st season in the NHL, Jagr, who ranks seventh all-time in the NHL in goals (705), eighth in assists (1,050) and tied for sixth with Lightning vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman for points (1,755), re-signed with the Devils for one more season in April.

Lightning stats vs. Devils (2013-14): 
Valtteri Filppula: 3 GP, 2 assists, 2 points, +1
Ben Bishop: 2 GP, 1-1-0, 1 SO, 2 GA, 43 SV, 1.00 GAA

Devils stats vs. Lightning (2013-14):
Jaromir Jagr: 3 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, +2
Dainius Zubrus: 3 GP, 2 goals, 0 assists, 2 points, +

All-time record (regular season): New Jersey leads the series 52-21-7-5

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