Chicago Blackhawks fans are used to a couple of stretches of watching their team on the road this time of year. It shouldn't come as a surprise that their recently announced schedule requires a lot of travel plans. However, Chicago will begin a 2013 NHL campaign with a slate that is remarkably balanced, considering the circumstances.
The release of the schedule Saturday sees the Blackhawks in Los Angeles on January 19 as speculated. Chicago will then take on Phoenix the following night in a rematch of last year's playoff series that saw the 'Hawks defeated in six games.
Chicago opens action at home January 22, clashing with our traditional rivals from St. Louis. The Blackhawks also host Detroit before the month is out.
Folks looking for that long road trip will find it at the end of the month, when Chicago goes out on a six-game jaunt. However, the 'Hawks get their own stretch of home cooking upon their return from that trip.
The Blackhawks will be in the United Center for 10 of 12 contests starting in mid-February, including seven straight from February 12-25. During that stretch, they host San Jose twice along with the Kings, Anaheim, Vancouver, Columbus and Edmonton.
The remainder of the schedule is pretty balanced as well. Chicago splits its 14 March games between the road and the United Center, then has eight of 14 April games at home to close out the regular season.
The Blackhawks open and close the season with six games in nine days and have 11 back-to-back games to negotiate. Every NHL club is going to have to deal with fatigue, and that includes Chicago. The 'Hawks will have to survive the early road trials and deal with the nagging injuries that can be expected with the frantic pace after months of no game action for many players.
It's not the schedule anyone wanted, but for the first time in a while, there are opponents to talk about. In a few days, fans will be able to look forward to more than words.