Highlights from the NHL’s recently released schedule

Dustin Brown and the Kings can finally get their Stanley Cup defense underway on January 19. (JulieAndSteve/Wikimedia Commons)

Dustin Brown and the Kings can finally get their Stanley Cup defense underway on January 19. (JulieAndSteve/Wikimedia Commons)

By: Tim Kolupanowich

@TimKolupan_

The NHL released its schedule for the 2013 season Saturday night which is set to start on January 19 and will conclude on April 27 with the playoffs commencing April 30. There will be no inter-conference games this season; teams will play their divisional rivals either four or five times each and will see all other teams in the conference three times.

That every game is within the conference means each contest is instrumental in the standings, but it is a shame fans won’t get to see the stars from the other conference. Eastern Conference fans will likely lose their last chance to see stars such as Teemu Selanne, Jaromir Jagr and Western Conference fans could miss out on seeing Daniel Alfredsson.

Likewise Devils fans won’t get the opportunity to voice their displeasure at Zach Parise for signing with Minnesota until next year, but Preds fans will get to direct their jeers towards Ryan Suter on March 9. Alex Semin will face his old mates when the Hurricanes visit Washington on February 26 and Jordan Staal will play in Pittsburgh again on the last day of the regular season.

Thirteen games are on the schedule that day, highlighted by a slew of rivalry games. The Los Angeles Kings will officially begin their title defense as they host the Chicago Blackhawks, the Pittsburgh Penguins will visit the Philadelphia Flyers who ended their season in the first round of the playoffs last season, the Montreal Canadiens will continue their historic rivalry as they host the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit will start a season without Nicklas Lidstrom for the first time since 1990 as they take on the St. Louis Blues.

Meanwhile, the season won’t end until April 27, nearly three weeks later than last season. This will have a major effect because it means the playoffs will run until the very end of June so the common issues of playing hockey in the Spring, notably warm arenas and chippy ice, will be a factor for a much larger portion of the postseason. The Kings won the Stanley Cup on June 11 last season. Twenty days later is July 1, the day free agency typically starts so that has been pushed back to July 5 according to Sean Leahy on Puck Daddy. The trade deadline will be on April 3.

Hockey Day in Canada will be on February 9 and will feature Winnipeg at Ottawa, Edmonton at Detroit, Toronto at Montreal and Calgary at Vancouver.

Hockey Day in America will be on February 17 and will showcase Pittsburgh at Buffalo, Los Angeles at Chicago and Washington at the New York Rangers.

A few other dates to look forward to:

January 26 – Kings at Coyotes: The Yotes were absolutely livid at the conclusion of their season last year. A surprise run to the Western Conference final ended at home in Game 5 on an overtime goal by Dustin Penner just moments after Dustin Brown took out defenseman Michal Rozsival with what Phoenix felt was a dirty hit. There were a few tense moments in the handshake line, especially between captains Brown and Shane Doan and these two physical teams will certainly be ready to go toe-to-toe again early in the season.

It's always a battle when the Devils and Rangers faceoff. (CS Smith/Flickr)

It’s always a battle when the Devils and Rangers faceoff. (CS Smith/Flickr)

February 5 – Rangers at Devils: This rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference finalists is the first four four games between the two bitter rivals. Last season saw plenty of fireworks, from three fights in three seconds to start a game on March 19 to Adam Henrique’s overtime series winner to send the Devils to the Cup final, and there is more than enough bad blood to go around. The Rangers are out to prove they have what it takes to win the Cup this season and the Devils want to show last season’s run was no fluke and their games against each other will go a long way towards deciding their fates.

February 11 – Flyers at Maple Leafs: In one of the bigger trades last summer, the Flyers upgraded their defense by acquiring Luke Schenn for James van Riemsdyk. Both players were drafted high (Schenn 5th overall in 2008, van Riemsdyk 2nd overall in 2007), but neither has panned out was well as their teams have hoped. Scheen is tasked with stabilizing a very shaky Flyers defense while van Riemsdyk, a winger, will try to fit in as the number one center Toronto has been looking for since Mats Sundin left in 2008.

February 19 – Red Wings at Predators: The Predators stopped the Red Wings from making it past the first round for the first time since 2006 last season. These Central Division rivals play two completely different games and it may be time for the Wings to pass the torch as best team in the division. They are getting older, no longer have Lidstrom and are not the sure-fire contendor they were a few years ago while Nashville is viewed by many to have what it take to make a long playoff runs in the coming years. Detroit also nabbed Jordin Tootoo away from the Preds during the summer and while he may not be a superstar, he is one of the biggest pests in the league and Nashville will have to deal with being on the other side of his shenanigans and highly physical play for the first time.

March 5 – Bruins at Capitals: The hockey world turned ugly when the Capitals defeated the Bruins in overtime of Game 7 in the first round last year, but the story of this game will go in a much different direction. This will be about the two starting goalies, Tuukka Rask and Braden Holtby. Last season marked the first time ever each game of a seven-game series was decided by a single goal as rookie Holtby shined. He is out to prove he’s no fluke against the guy tagged with taking over for the suddenly-off-the-wall Tim Thomas.

You can check out the American TV schedule here and the Canadian schedule here, both thanks to Steve Lepore of SB Nation.

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