This is not a 48-game schedule. There is no long Olympic break. The NHL announced their 2014-15 regular season schedule Sunday afternoon, giving fans something to look forward to during the summer. For the first time since the 2011-12 season, the NHL will have its annual All-Star Break, occurring in January. While teams like the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks look forward to hosting their first outdoor games, the Nashville Predators have a relatively uneventful schedule when looking from the outside in. Despite not having many (if any) games that the League will be honing their attention towards, there are 5 cannot miss dates for the Predators this season.
First, let’s take a look at the facts of the 2014-15 schedule for the Predators:
- Open season with 3-game home stand against Ottawa, Dallas and Calgary
- Longest road trip: 6 games between October 29 – November 8
- Longest home stand: 4 games between November 22-29 and February 10-17
- Heaviest home month is February when 10 contest will be played in Bridgestone Arena.
- January 22-26: All-Star break in Columbus.
- 13 Saturday home games (8 of which are Eastern Conference foes and five against Central Division rivals)
- Holiday-filled: Nashville plays host to Edmonton on Thanksgiving; New Jersey on Valentine’s Day; and Minnesota on St. Patrick’s Day
- 11 sets of back-to-backs
- 9 afternoon contest (before 5pm CST)
5. Kings Come To Town – November 25
The reigning Stanley Cup champions roll into town for the only time this season on November 25. Nashville will be up against the likes of Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Marian Gaborik, Drew Doughty and many more Los Angeles Kings that are now household names. While there will not be a large opposing crowd entering Bridgestone Arena to make things dicey in the seats, the hockey on the ice is expected to be superb. This gives an opportunity to judge how far away new head coach Peter Laviolette has to making the Predators Cup contenders. Nashville currently leads the all-time series with a 26-25-3-2-2 record (W-L-T-OTL-SOL).
4. Klein-ing Up Against Us – February 7
Defenseman Kevin Klein will return to Nashville for the first time since being traded to the New York Rangers this past winter. by the club who drafted him 37th overall in 2003. Klein was drafted 37th overall in 2003 and played 403 games for the Predators, playing huge role on defense in the past few seasons. Although the Predators hated seeing Klein go, it benefited the Kitchener, Ontario native greatly by allowing him the opportunity to play in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Rangers. Although Klein is likely down on himself for not winning it all, in perspective, he was just three wins shy of hoisting the Cup over his head, which is a great accomplishment. In Nashville, he was at best 11 wins away. There will not be any jeering when Klein steps on the ice and, hopefully, there will be a tribute video dedicated to his career with the Predators.
3. Laviolette Returns To Philly – February 21
There is not a tougher city to be the enemy in than Philadelphia. Fans in Philly are so rough that they are notorious for throwing snowballs at Santa Claus. With that being the case, how will the city treat Peter Laviolette in his return to Wells Fargo Center as coach of the opposing team? That remains to be unknown as he exited in a less than fashionable way. Laviolette was fired just 3 games into the regular season last year. Keep in mind, he coached the Flyers for 272 games and led the team to an Eastern Conference championship in 2010.
2. Home Closer – April 9
Depending on how the season goes, there may not be a more important match than this one against the Minnesota Wild. Likely to be a playoff deciding contest, Nashville will have to topple over Central Division rival Minnesota and the hated Ryan Suter to reach the postseason for the first time since 2012. While this game is known as ‘Fan Appreciation Night’, the boys on the ice could show their appreciation by winning a big game, rather than just simply giving fans the jersey off their back. This game will be a hot ticket, so purchase tickets sooner rather than later.
1. Friend Turned Foe – January 16
Barry Trotz, the only coach the Predators have even known, will walk into the building as a visitor and enter the opposing locker room for the first time in his coaching career. After 15 seasons of coaching the Predators, it may cause confusion to see Barry Trotz on the other bench coaching Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. Because Trotz’s return will be nostalgic and the highlight of the night, it will be tough for either side to focus on the task at hand. Fans will show their love for the coach and possibly even cheer after Trotz’s name is announced as part of the lineup instead of the typical “Sucks!”. January 16 is gearing up to be an emotional night for both sides.
Which games are you circling on your calender?
Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.