Home openers are emotional, exciting games to begin with. But for Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier, next season's first game at the Tampa Bay Times Forum — Oct. 16 against the Islanders — will be extra special. It will be his 1,000th NHL game, all with Tampa Bay.
"It means a lot for me to be able to play at home in front of the fans that supported me through my career," Lecavalier wrote in a text message.
The game is one of the highlights of the 2012-13 schedule released Thursday. Barring a delay stemming from this summer's negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, the Lightning's 20th season begins Oct. 13 at Florida. It will be game 999 for Lecavalier, 32, the No. 1 overall draft pick of 1998 who against New York will become the first player with 1,000 games for Tampa Bay.
"For my family and friends to be there, it will be extra special," Lecavalier wrote.
• The Lightning plays nine of its first 13 games at home. General manager Steve Yzerman did not call it an advantage. "You still have to win 'em," he said.
• There are two six-game homestands, Nov. 1-13 and March 7-1. The longest road trip is four games, on three occasions.
• There are 13 sets of back-to-back games, 10 with two road games. There are no back-to-back games at the Times Forum.
• The Stanley Cup champion Kings don't visit. The Lightning plays at Los Angeles on Nov. 17.
• At the Times Forum: The Red Wings on Nov. 24. The Rangers, with ex-Lightning coach John Tortorella and ex-Lightning star Brad Richards, on Oct. 23 and Dec. 29. Former Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith and the Coyotes March 16.
•Tampa Bay plays New Year's Eve at Winnipeg.