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2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

NHL schedules all balance out at the end, but the Lightning will open 2018-19 with five straight home games and end the season with its last four on the road.

The Lightning released its schedule Thursday evening for the upcoming season, with all sorts of wrinkles. That opening five-game homestand at Amalie Arena, starting with the Florida Panthers on Oct. 6, is immediately followed by the longest road trip of the season, with five road games in a span of eight days, all against Western Conference opponents.

As for that rematch with the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, who eliminated the Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final? The two teams play three times but won't do so until March, meeting three times in the final 11 games of the regular season. The Capitals come to Amalie Arena on March 16 and March 30, with a game in Washington on March 20.

The Lightning will want to squirrel away as many points as possible, as its  last four games are all on the road (in a span of six days, closing at Boston on April 6, exactly six months after the opener), as are seven of the final nine.

Tampa Bay is slated to play 11 pairs of back-to-back games, and only one of those 22 games is at home, as the Lightning will host Pittsburgh on Feb. 9 and play at Florida on Feb. 10.

Some of the other back-to-back games are daunting — that first five-game road trip includes games at Las Vegas and Arizona on consecutive days, with a little help from a 4 p.m. local start against the Golden Knights.

For hockey fans eager to see northern opponents, the schedule lines up so four popular non-division Eastern teams (Flyers, Penguins, Rangers, Islanders) each have a single trip to Tampa, while there are two home games each against the rest of the Eastern Conference.

Here is the complete schedule:

Oct 6 vs. Florida, 7
Oct 11 vs. Vancouver, 7:30
Oct 13 vs. Columbus, 7
Oct 16 vs. Carolina, 7:30
Oct 18 vs. Detroit, 7:30
Oct 20 at Minnesota. 8
Oct. 21 at Chicago, 7
Oct 24 at Colorado, 9:30
Oct 26 at Vegas, 4
Oct 27 at Arizona, 9
Oct 30 vs. New Jersey, 7:30
Nov 1 vs. Nashville, 7:30
Nov 3 at Montreal, 7
Nov 4 at Ottawa, 7
Nov 6 vs. Edmonton, 7:30
Nov 8 vs. N.Y. Islanders, 7:30
Nov 10 vs. Ottawa, 7
Nov 13 at Buffalo, 7
Nov 15 at Pittsburgh, 7
Nov 17 at Philadelphia, 1
Nov 19 at Nashville, 8
Nov 21 vs. Florida, 7:30
Nov 23 vs. Chicago, 7:30
Nov 25 vs. New Jersey, 7
Nov 27 vs. Anaheim, 7:30
Nov 29 vs. Buffalo, 7:30
Dec 1 at Florida, 7
Dec 3 New Jersey, 7
Dec 4 at Detroit, 7:30
Dec 6 vs. Boston, 7:30
Dec 8 vs. Colorado, 7
Dec 10 vs. N.Y. Rangers, 7:30
Dec 13 vs. Toronto, 7:30
Dec 16 at Winnipeg, 7
Dec 18 at Vancouver, 10
Dec 20 at Calgary, 9
Dec 22 at Edmonton, 10
Dec 27 vs. Philadelphia, 7:30
Dec 29 vs. Montreal, 7
Dec 31 at Anaheim, 10
Jan 3 at Los Angeles, 10:30
Jan 5 at San Jose, 11
Jan 8 vs. Columbus, 7:30
Jan 10 vs. Carolina, 7:30
Jan 12 at Buffalo, 7
Jan 13 at N.Y. Islanders, 7
Jan 15 at Dallas, 7:30
Jan 17 vs. Toronto, 7:30
Jan 19 vs. San Jose, 7
Jan 30 at Pittsburgh, 8
Feb 1 at N.Y. Islanders, 7 (at Nassau Coliseum)
Feb 2 at N.Y. Rangers, 7
Feb 5 vs. Vegas, 7:30
Feb 7 vs. St. Louis, 7:30
Feb 9 vs. Pittsburgh, 7
Feb 10 at Florida, 6
Feb 12 vs. Calgary, 7:30
Feb 14 vs. Dallas, 7:30
Feb 16 vs. Montreal, 7
Feb 18 at Columbus, 7
Feb 19 at Philadelphia, 7
Feb 21 vs. Buffalo, 7:30
Feb 25 vs. Los Angeles, 7:30
Feb 27 at N.Y. Rangers, 7:30
Feb 28 at Boston, 7
March 2 vs. Ottawa, 7
March 5 vs. Winnipeg, 7:30
March 7 vs. Minnesota, 7:30
March 9 vs. Detroit, 7
March 11 at Toronto, 7
March 14 at Detroit, 7:30
March 16 vs. Washington, 7
March 18 vs. Arizona, 7:30
March 20 at Washington, 7:30
March 21 at Carolina, 7
March 23 at St. Louis, 8
March 25 vs. Boston, 7:30
March 30 vs. Washington, 7
April 1 at Ottawa, 7:30
April 2 at Montreal, 7:30
April 4 at Toronto, 7
April 6 at Boston, 12:30

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