Here we are. I’d call it a place of peace and serenity for hockey fans. The NHL and the NHLPA finally unlocked the metaphorical door to freedom and Zamboni drivers in NHL rinks can once again serve a purpose. Instead of the 82-game marathon like style of season, it’s going to be a 48-game sprint to the finish, fall apart once and you’re done kind of year. This is going to be fun.
For the Carolina Hurricanes, optimism reigns supreme as the newly bolstered squad gets set to open the season on the road Saturday (Jan. 19) night against the Southeast Division Champion Florida Panthers. The off-season additions of Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin should make the Southeast race all the more interesting. I can assure you the make-up of the schedule this year will see to that. Five divisional matchups with the Lightning and Capitals while just four against the Jets and Panthers make up for over a third of this year’s games. The remaining 30 games will see the Canes play each of the Eastern Conference teams three times each. Let’s look at some of the key dates throughout the schedule.
Tuesday Jan. 22: The Canes home opener sees a date with the Tampa Bay Lightning. If you live in the area, I suggest you get to this game or Thursday Jan. 24 against the Sabres. The team is offering up some worthwhile promotional deals.
Friday Feb. 1: The Ottawa Senators come to town but this game is more critical in the sense that the Hurricanes travel to Philadelphia the very next night to open a six-game road trip due to the circus. The Senators matchup starts a seven-game stretch in 12 days with stops in Toronto (Feb. 4), Ottawa (Feb. 7), Philadelphia again (Feb. 9), Long Island (Feb. 11) and New Jersey (Feb. 12).
Saturday Feb. 23: The Hurricanes host the Lightning in what kicks off a seven-game in 11-day stretch including two back-to-backs.
Tuesday Feb. 26: Alexander Semin returns to Washington as the Capitals host the Hurricanes.
Thursday Feb. 28: Jordan Staal gets a crack at his old team as the Hurricanes welcome Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins to town.
Mar. 2-3: The Hurricanes open a weekend home and home series with division rival Florida Panthers.
Mar. 12 and Mar. 14: The Hurricanes travel to Washington on Thursday before returning home in what could be a critical home and home series in the Southeast Division.
Mar. 28-Apr. 1: O’Canada! The Hurricanes make stops in Toronto, Winnipeg and Montreal before returning home to open a three-game home stand on April 2 against the Capitals.
Apr. 20-Apr. 27: The final push should be interesting for the Canes as they’ve got five games in eight nights to close out the regular season. They host Philadelphia (Apr. 20), @ Tampa Bay (Apr. 21), vs. Islanders (Apr. 23), vs. Rangers (Apr. 25) and end the season in Pittsburgh (Apr. 27)
Jim Rutherford a busy man
Once the CBA was ratified on Saturday, Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford wasted no time before wheeling and dealing. On Sunday, the Canes shipped out goaltender Brian Boucher and defenceman Mark Alt for centre Luke Pither from the Flyers.
They followed that up by agreeing to terms with goaltender Dan Ellis, who has been playing with the AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers during the lockout.
Rutherford wasn’t done there as he sent forward Anthony Stewart and two picks to the Los Angeles Kings for forward Kevin Westgarth.
Follow me on Twitter @chadhackl