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After going through some ups and downs through the first month of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning head into the month of November having earned 11 points, which still keeps them in a solid position to qualify for this year’s playoffs. Looking ahead at their schedule reveals some key matchups against teams expected to challenge the Lightning for a playoff spot, as well as getting a first look at a predicted generational talent.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov (The Hockey Writers)

NHL schedulers were not exactly kind to the Lightning, as the team will only see six of their 15 November games take place at Amalie Arena. Also, ten of those contests are against teams considered serious contenders for playoff spots this season. Even though this is early in the season, November will be a very interesting month for the Lightning for various reasons.

Two Games Against Connor Bedard

The Lightning will get two looks at the first overall pick of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft when the Chicago Blackhawks and Connor Bedard come to town on Nov. 9. The Lightning will again face the Blackhawks the following week for a nationally televised matchup in Chicago on Nov. 16. Bedard finished the month of October with three goals and two assists and has looked every bit of a superstar in the making, playing for a very young and developing team. This team could get better quickly if some of their injured veterans can return soon.

Connor Bedard, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)

A look at the top of the Blackhawks point leaders sees a familiar face to the Lightning. Corey Perry has six points for the Blackhawks and is currently tied with Bedard for the team lead. Perry was acquired from the Lightning in a deal on the second day of the 2023 draft, as the Blackhawks gave the Lightning a seventh-round pick for the rights to the 38-year-old. The Blackhawks later signed Perry to a one-year deal worth $4 million. He has been instrumental in allowing the Hawks to have a little success in October, including an overtime victory that gave the Vegas Golden Knights their first loss of the season. It will be an interesting reunion with his former team for these two games.

The matchup with the Blackhawks will also see two brothers face off against each other, as the Lightning’s Darren Raddysh will face off against forward Taylor Raddysh, who was a second-round draft pick of the Lightning in 2016. Taylor was part of the 2022 trade deadline deal that brought Brandon Hagel to the Lightning.

Lightning’s Challenging Schedule

The Lightning’s schedule for November will not give the team much opportunity to sleep in their own beds, as they will only be home for six of the 15 games scheduled for the month. Before hosting Bedard and the Blackhawks, the Lightning will head out on a four-game road trip. After a trip to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets and their top young player, Adam Fantilli, the Lightning will travel north to Canada to play the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Montreal Canadiens. All three Canadian teams are looking like contenders that could keep the Lightning out of the playoffs this season. The Lightning will also look to atone for some lackluster play that resulted in losses to the Maple Leafs and the Senators in October.

Adam Fantilli, Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Other games against playoff contenders include two against the Carolina Hurricanes, home games against the Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins, and Winnipeg Jets, and a road contest against the Colorado Avalanche. Head coach Jon Cooper talked about how he felt about this team’s upcoming schedule after the overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken on Monday (Oct. 30). “Do I think we’re a better team now than day one of the season? I do. Do I feel like we’re a better team than we were a week ago? I do. Is that going to translate into points? I can’t sit here and say that. If we play with the desperation we had in the second and third, I’ll take our chances.”

Vasilevskiy to Return?

Andrei Vasilevskiy skated at practice on Sunday for the first time since undergoing back surgery a month ago. Despite the welcoming news, Cooper confirmed that the five-time all-star will probably not return until late November. Since having a microdiscectomy on Sept. 28 to address a lumbar disk herniation, Vasilevskiy has been rehabbing away from the team and out of the public eye. But he has progressed well enough to do some light skating.

While Jonas Johansson has played well in his absence, a healthy Vasilevskiy would provide a spark to the team. Since 2015-16, the former Vezina Trophy winner leads the NHL in wins (256) and is third in shutouts (31), and was instrumental in leading the Lightning to three straight Stanley Cup Final appearances, winning two of them along the way. It seems that comments coming from the Lightning organization are targeting a return sometime around Thanksgiving (Nov. 23).

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Also set to rejoin the team is Tyler Motte, who has been out since suffering an upper-body injury in the season opener. Cooper indicated that Motte would accompany the team when they start the four-game road trip on Thursday, Nov. 2, but did not hint when he will suit up for a game. The 28-year-old will provide some more grittiness to the bottom six when he’s able to return to action.

Related: Lightning GM Already Scouting Canadiens: Who Could Be Traded?

The Lightning finished their homestand earning eight of a possible 10 points. Still, their two overtime losses in the stretch left players and fans frustrated, as well as puzzled about how a team with such talent has had no recent success in overtime. Moving into November, the Lightning hope to reverse that trend and come out of the road-heavy schedule still in a good position to make the playoffs.

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The post Lightning’s November Features Their First Look at Connor Bedard appeared first on WorldNewsEra.

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