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Tampa Bay shouldn’t strike out because of their schedule

Oct 1, 2011, 2:30 PM EDT

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Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers Getty Images

With the 2011-12 season rapidly approaching, the gang at PHT decided to take a look at all 30 NHL teams’ schedules. Each team’s highs and lows will be studied in detail to give you an idea of what the future might hold for each squad.

Note: Mileage figures via On the Forecheck’s “Super Schedule.”

Tampa Bay Lightning schedule analysis

Total mileage: 43,717 (12th most in the NHL, third in Southeast Division)

Back-to-back games: 10

Toughest stretches

The Lightning start the season with a five-game road trip, but that’s balanced out by a solid homestand afterward. Most of November is mixed until late in that month, when things start to go awry. They close the month with two road games, stop in Tampa Bay to host the Rangers and then play four road contests in a row.

Things are pretty even until the end of the season, when Tampa Bay will likely hope they already have a playoff spot locked up. They play three games on the road (Philly, Boston and New Jersey) with two home games in the middle and three more contests away from Tampa, including a finale against the Jets in Winnipeg.

Easiest periods

The Lightning have solid little runs here and there in the first few months, but a stretch from late January to late February is one of their best first ones. They play five home games in a row to end January and start February, followed by a three-game road trip. After that, the Lightning play another four consecutive games at home.

That’s not their biggest opportunity of the 2011-12 season, though. That comes from March 10-24, when they enjoy a season-high seven-game homestand. Only two of the teams they play against in those seven games made the 2011 playoffs and there are no back-to-back games.

Overall outlook

Speaking of back-to-back games, the Lightning are tied for the league’s lowest amount with just 10 sets. They also have the lightest travel schedule of the three teams with only 10 back-to-backs.

Combining that fact with their generally reasonable schedule, it seems like Tampa Bay is in a prime position to at least claim another playoff spot next season. They might want to get that over with sometime before that challenging eight-game stretch to end 11-12, though.

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