Carolina Hurricanes' 2013-14 NHL Schedule: Must-See Games, Predictions & More

Mark Jones@@CanesReportSenior Analyst IJuly 19, 2013

Carolina Hurricanes' 2013-14 NHL Schedule: Must-See Games, Predictions & More

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    The Carolina Hurricanes will begin the 2013-14 NHL regular season on Friday, Oct. 4 in the friendly confines of PNC Arena.

    Six months and 81 games later, they'll hope to conclude the season by clinching a playoff berth in the decidedly unfriendly confines of Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center.

    On Friday afternoon, the league unveiled the schedule for a campaign that's shaping up to be one of the most important in Carolina's franchise history.

    The 'Canes are one of eight teams composing the brand-new Metropolitan Division, where they'll seek to overcome a tough set of opponents and qualify for the postseason for the first time in five years.

    A breakdown of the Hurricanes' 2013-14 schedulecomplete with a general overview, a preview of several must-see games, a Metropolitan Division analysis and a bold end-of-season prediction—falls on the coming slides.

Important Dates

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    The complete team schedule can be viewed above. Check out some of the season's most noteworthy dates and stretches below:

    • October 4: Start of Season/home opener (vs. Detroit)
    • October 6: Metropolitan Division bebut (vs. Philadelphia)
    • October 17: Mike Komisarek's first return to Toronto
    • October 17 to 25: State Fair road trip (four games)
    • November 5 to 15: Longest homestand (five games)
    • December 31: New Year's Eve special (vs. Montreal)
    • January 7: Andrej Sekera's first return to Buffalo
    • February 9 to 26: 2014 Winter Olympics break
    • April 10: Home finale (vs. Washington)
    • April 13: End of season (at Philadelphia)


Must-See Games

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    October 4 vs. Detroit Red Wings

    No one could've imagined a bigger, bolder start to the 2013-14 season than a season opener at home against Detroit.

    The Red Wings, loaded with offseason additions Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss, will be primed for their Eastern Conference debut. The night should be a fantastic, albeit difficult, opportunity for the 'Canes to prove their contender status after a disastrous 2013 stretch run.


    November 5 vs. Philadelphia Flyers

    The Hurricanes' only appearance on NBC Sports Network happens to be a vital early-season home contest against new division rival Philadelphia.

    If the 'Canes hope to grab one of the Metropolitan's three playoff spots in 2013-14, they'll have to improve against the Flyers. They've posted a miserable 2-11-2 record against them since 2009-10.

    November 5 will be an important Tuesday night.


    March 18 at Columbus Blue Jackets

    The 'Canes haven't beaten Columbus since 2005, losing their last five meetings against the up-and-coming Blue Jackets.

    They'll face them five times in 2013, including twice in an 11-day stretch in late March. As it's very plausible that the two clubs could end up fighting for one final playoff spot, the Hurricanes will need to treat their March 18 visit to Nationwide Arena very seriously.


    April 10 vs. Washington Capitals

    The 'Canes close out their PNC Arena schedule with the Caps on a Thursday in another crucial late-season matchup within the Metropolitan Division.

    The Carolina-Washington rivalry looks slated to grow rapidly in emotion and profile over the coming years. This home finale should close the books on its 2013-14 edition.

Breaking Down the New Division

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    Metropolitan Division: Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals

    The Hurricanes will continue their growing rivalry with the Capitals in the new Metropolitan Division.

    Outside of that, however, the franchise is entering decidedly new (and tough) territory.

    Five of the new Metropolitan Division's eight teams originate from the old Atlantic, which sent 17 teams to the playoffs over the past five years. For comparison, the old Southeast sent just eight teams over that same time span.

    Also joining the group are the Blue Jackets, entering their first ever campaign in the Eastern Conference.

    The Jackets shocked the world by nearly qualifying for the postseason last spring, but it's unclear whether a recovering-from-surgery Nathan Horton will improve their middling offense enough—Columbus is clearly an X-factor at the moment.

    The aging Flyers and now-depleted Devils should both be beatable, while the 'Canes have swept the season series with the up-and-coming Islanders in two of the last three seasons.

    Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that the Hurricanes' new divisional opponents are a far better bunch than their old Southeast foes.

Toughest Stretch

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    November 16 to 24: at Blues, vs. Bruins, at Red Wings, at Bruins, vs. Senators

    In this brutal mid-November week, the Hurricanes play five games in eight nights and have to travel to a different venue for each game.

    Two of the five contests come against Boston. The Hurricanes and Bruins have developed a physical rivalry in recent years. Tim Gleason, Milan Lucic and others should provide plenty of extracurricular highlights while the two teams battle it out on the ice.

    The stretch also includes road trips to two arenas the 'Canes haven't often visited. They'll have a tough time pulling out victories in the home territory of top-tier teams St. Louis and Detroit.

    The grueling run is capped off with a Sunday-evening matinee against Ottawa, completing a weekend back-to-back that began in Boston the previous afternoon.

Season Preview and Predictions

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    Projected Metropolitan Division Finish: Fourth

    Projected Eastern Conference Finish: Seventh

    Before injuries doomed their lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, the Hurricanes were cruising along among the league's elite at 15-9-1.

    The 'Canes will undoubtedly hope for better luck in 2013-14, but they also made several important moves in the offseason to help prevent another catastrophe.

    New additions Andrej Sekera and Mike Komisarek, along with rising youngsters Ryan Murphy, Brett Bellemore and Michal Jordan, significantly fortify the defensive depth. Meanwhile, No. 5 selection Elias Lindholm fully loads the offense down the middle and free-agent signing Anton Khudobin upgrades the goaltending unit tremendously.

    In the end, though, the fate of Carolina's 2013-14 campaign will ride on the shoulders of the franchise's cornerstones—Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner, Jiri Tlusty and Jordan and Eric Staal up front, Justin Faulk and Tim Gleason in the back end and Cam Ward in goal.

    The Hurricanes won't be the flashy playoff contender that garners national attention. The Hurricanes won't be appearing on NBC on a weekly (or even monthly) basis. And, as always, the Hurricanes' road to the playoffs won't be without plenty of potholes and roadbumps along the way.

    But there are a plethora of reasons to believe that, at long last, the Hurricanes will be playoff bound in 2013-14.