The shortened NHL season begins on Saturday night with five of the seven Canadian-based clubs seeing action.
A typical NHL schedule has each team play 82 games in 184 days, or one game every 2.24 days. The compressed schedule will now see each team play 48 games in 99 games or one game every 2.06 days. It may not seem like much of an increase, but that, coupled with teams trying to find home available in their arena has created a few quirks in the schedule.
Like all teams, the Canucks have several ping-pong moments in their schedule. The team’s first road trip, at the end of January to California, sees the team in the Los Angeles area to play Anaheim on Friday, Jan. 25, travelling up to San Jose to take on the Sharks on Sunday night, and then back to L.A. to face the Kings on Monday night. The Canucks then head back to Vancouver to play the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, Jan. 30.
Early March is more intense, as the Canucks play the Kings at home on Mar. 2 on Hockey Night in Canada , go to Calgary to play the Flames the next day, come back to Vancouver for a Tuesday game against the Sharks and then are off for a three-game road trip, first on the Thursday in Columbus, on Sunday Mar. 10 in Minnesota and then back to Columbus on the Tuesday.
However, even with the erratic travel, the road trips are, for the most part, relatively short. The longest is a six-game trip in mid-April, Calgary-Colorado-Nashville-St. Louis-Dallas.
“Injuries are going to be the biggest factor in this 48-game schedule,” said Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis.
Still the Canucks boss concluded his team doesn’t mind the shortened-schedule stating “we think it looks pretty good.”
The Oilers’ schedule is complicated by the presence of the Brier curling championships at Rexall Place, which will oblige them to be out of the building towards the end of February. In the original NHL schedule, the Oilers were supposed to be on the road for eight consecutive games during that interval. Now it’s nine games, to be played in 16 nights.
They start with a Feb. 25 date with the Chicago Blackhawks and don’t return home until a Mar. 12 against the Avalanche in Colorado. The Oilers also finish with a gruelling six-games-in-eight nights sprint to end the year.
“We have to take advantage of our start where we have 10 of 17 at home and go into that nine-game road trip in a strong position – maintaining pace with the pack,” coach Ralph Krueger told edmontonoilers.com. “Our goal is to keep the picture small and not get too far ahead of ourselves by looking at what’s to come late in the season. If we get out to a good start, it would be very important and then we’d make the schedule work for us.”
Calgary’s schedule is less erratic then their Alberta neighbours. The Flames open with five of their first six at home and finish with four games on the road, including their season finale against the Chicago Blackhawks on Apr. 26. Because the Flames begin a day later and finish a day earlier, their 48 games will be crammed into 97 nights.
“It’s going to be different. It’s one of them things where I don’t think there’s going to be much planning outside the rink for the next three month,” Flames’ Curtis Glencross told reporters on Thursday.
“With that many games, that close, everyone is going to have some bumps and bruises and a few tweaks and stuff like that. It’s just one of those things where we have to take care of our bodies the best we can.”
How’s this for hitting the ice in a hurry? In their second and third games of this truncated NHL season, the Winnipeg Jets get the Bruins in Boston and the Capitals in Washington back-to-back before heading home to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 25. Can you say, ‘Bring it on?’ As the furthest outpost in the league’s Southeast Division, travel is always an issue for Winnipeg. The Jets will play Washington and the Florida Panthers five times; the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes four times. Winnipeg will also get the Capitals back-to-back at the MTS Centre, Mar. 21-22; a double serving of Alex Ovechkin, which is rarely a bad thing to watch.
As for road trips, the Jets’ longest runs five games, Feb. 19 to 26, beginning in Buffalo and ending in New York against the Rangers. A six-game home stand closes out the season. That game will feature a visit by the Montreal Canadiens on Apr. 25.
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