There is a lot of anticipation for the 2013-2014 NHL season to begin. First, there is the realignment of the conferences. The Red Wings are now members of the Eastern Conference with completely new divisional rivals. Second, they will face every team twice meaning they will have to host and travel to play each team at least once each. Finally, it is an Olympic year, meaning the selection process has already begun and prospective players will be under pressure to perform every night to earn a spot representing their nation. For the Detroit Red Wings, it is unknown who will be their biggest rival in their tough new division, but rest assured there will be plenty of excitement once the season begins. However, some games hold more pressure than others over the course of the regular season and here is a look at five must see games on the Red Wings’ schedule.
Filppula Is Back
November 9th, Tampa Bay at Detroit
Valtteri Filppula will be returning to Joe Louis arena as a member of a division rival. For the first time ever, he will have to face off against the only NHL team he has ever played for. Filppula was criticized for his lack of offensive performance in the playoffs, six points in 14 games, so he will be back with a vengeance. Not only does it mark Filppula’s return, but it will also be a test to see if the Red Wings made the right decision inking Stephen Weiss. The two forwards have almost identical contracts and Weiss is only one year older, so the question is who will be the better fit in Detroit?
December 1st, Detroit at Ottawa
This game will be the first time ever that Daniel Alfredsson dresses in Ottawa’s visitors’ dressing room. After his shocking free agent signing with the Red Wings, there will be plenty of build up for the former Sens’ captain. Expect boos to replace the chants of “Alfie, Alfie, Alfie” whenever he steps on the ice. Judging by how the fans have responded to Dany Heatley leaving, although his departure featured a few more fireworks, there is no reason to expect any love for Alfredsson. The Senators visit Detroit twice before this game, but the pressure won’t be the same until Alfredsson steps back onto the ice surface he used to call home.
Weiss on the Prowl
December 7th/10th, Florida at Detroit/Detroit at Florida
Yes, technically they are two games, but the Wings and Panthers play a home and home series which gives former Panther Stephen Weiss a double opportunity to show his former teammates that he made the right decision in leaving. Unlike in Ottawa, the Panthers are used to seeing players depart via free agency and it was no surprise that Weiss, who has only played seven career playoff games, decided to sign with a playoff team. The main difference is that the Panthers don’t play in a hockey hotbed, so the return of Weiss will not be highly publicized.
The Winter Classic
January 1st, Toronto at Detroit: Michigan Stadium
This year the Winter Classic will actually be coming to Detroit. Despite adding more outdoor games to the schedule, Michigan Stadium on New Years day will be one of the most anticipated and publicized regular season game of the year. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also announced that the HBO’s hit 24/7 series will return giving fans a look of behind the scenes action of the two teams leading up to the game. In addition to all the hype the game is also very important for the standings. The two teams are now division rivals and if last season is any indicator, every point matters. The Wings created two instant rivals by signing Alfredsson. He is the least favourite player in Toronto since his hit from behind on, then Leaf, Darcy Tucker in the 2002 playoffs.
Needless to say, the Winter Classic is the most anticipated game on their schedule.
The Defending Champs
January 22nd, Chicago at Detroit.
The champions will return to Joe Louis arena for the first time since they were in the middle of a come from behind series victory to eliminate Detroit in seven games. The last memory that the Wings have of their former division rivals is Brent Seabrook’s season ending goal at 3:35 of overtime. Don’t forget, the Wings had a 3-1 series lead before bowing out to the eventual Stanley Cup winners. This game will serve two purposes. First, it gives the Red Wings a chance to avenge their playoff defeat. Second, it gives the young defence corps a good test against one of the best offensive teams in the league. It will be a good measuring stick to see if the new look Red Wings are series Cup contenders.