Almost completely overshadowed by the draft eve madness in Philly and elsewhere around the hockey world is the NHL schedule, which came out earlier this afternoon. Highlights for the Devils' schedule include:
-The season opener at the Rock on Saturday, October 8 at 7 PM against a suddenly very different Flyers team, the first of three straight home games to begin the season - including a Columbus Day matinee against the Canes.
-Winnipeg's first visit to New Jersey since 1996 on Saturday, November 5 (another 7 PM start) as well as trips there on December 3 and January 14, also 7 PM starts EST.
-Six more matchups with the Rangers, the first of which will be at the Rock on Tuesday, December 20 at 7 PM.
-Boston's first trip in as Stanley Cup champs on January 4
-Anaheim visiting the Rock on Friday, February 17 (a possible date to retire ex-Devil and Duck Scott Niedermayer's number 27?)
-A St. Patrick's day 1 PM showdown against the Penguins, which could very well be another throwback jersey game
-Ottawa comes in to end the regular season on April 7, a Saturday 3 PM start for Fan Appreciation Day.
As far as the other locals, the Rangers begin the season in Stockholm against the Kings (with new marquee center Mike Richards) on the 7th and Ducks on the 8th. The Blueshirts' first game stateside will also be their first showdown with the Isles at the Mausoleum on the 15th, but because of renovations to MSG the Rangers won't actually play at home until the 27th and have a four-game Western Canada swing before that. And since the Rangers' season has come down to Game #82 the last two seasons, this year's final game of the season is another playoff rematch with the Caps at the Garden, also an April 7 3 PM start.
Like the Devils, the Isles also begin the season with a block of home games (four, to be exact) - opening on April 8 against the Panthers at 8 PM. Our first meetings with the Isles are a home-and-home showdown just after Thanksgiving, with 1 PM starts on the Island on the 25th and here on the 26th. Somewhat astonishingly, their final home game is on Thursday the 5th against Winnipeg. Okay, they're still a conference rival - for this year - but that looks weird. They also close the season on the 7th against Columbus and new acquisition Jeff Carter at 7 PM. Major double-take on that one.
Along with the Rangers, Buffalo begins the season overseas by playing the Ducks and Kings on the 7th and 8th, only they'll be in Helsinki for the first game and Berlin, Denmark for the second. Buffalo returns home to begin their stateside campaign against the rival Canes at the HSBC Arena on the 14th. Their first grudge match with the Flyers since the playoffs will be on November 2. Buffalo will end their home schedule with a game against the hated Leafs on April 3 before closing on the road against the two teams that ended their last couple of seasons - at Philly on the 5th and Boston on the 7th.