For hockey fans, it's time to get excited.
The 2013-14 NHL schedule has been released, and all 30 teams will be beginning the season in unfamiliar positions, as the newly-realigned divisions will present new challenges to each and every club.
Washington enters this season with hopes of finally advancing beyond the conference semifinals for the first time since 1998, but that will be significantly more difficult with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and both New York teams all playing in the Caps' division.
Here's a look at the most important dates on the Caps' 2013-14 schedule (via NHL.com).
October 1, 2013 at Chicago
Anytime a team that's hoping to earn the distinction of being a contender takes on the defending Stanley Cup champions to start a season, you know it's going to be a hard-fought game.
The Caps and Blackhawks have had a couple of very entertaining clashes over the last couple of seasons, and with both teams looking to build off of their respective successes last season, this one should be a barn burner.
November 20, 2014 vs. Pittsburgh
For the first time since 1998, the Capitals and Penguins are division foes, and Nov. 20 will mark the first Metropolitan Division contest between these two bitter rivals in Washington.
These two teams have built one of the game's most bitter rivalry's since the 2005-06 campaign, and the intensity will only increase now that they're in direct competition for postseason positioning.
February 2, 2014 vs. Detroit
Now that the Red Wings and Capitals will be competing in the same conference, maybe they will renew the animosity that was present around the time of Detroit's sweep of the Caps in the 1998 Stanley Cup Final.
Ovechkin has had a lot of success on Super Bowl Sunday in the past, so hosting a marquee opponent on national television will provide incentive for the reigning league MVP to put on a show.
It's no secret that the new division alignment has made things more difficult for the Capitals, as Adam Oates' squad no longer has the luxury of playing in the decidedly weak Southeast Division.
With Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, all three New York City area teams and the fast-improving Blue Jackets and Hurricanes all providing strong competition in the Metropolitan Division, the Caps won't be able to sleepwalk through the first half of the season as they have in the past.
The Caps already have reasonably heated rivalries with the Flyers, Penguins and Rangers, so tossing them all in the same division will only pour gasoline on each respective fire.
Wednesday January 15-January 24, 2014
During this nine-day stretch, the Capitals will play four of their five games on the road against division rivals, starting with a date at Consol Energy Center with the Penguins on Jan. 15.
Because the Capitals will be in direct competition with four of these five teams within the Metropolitan Division, these clashes mean more than ever, and given that the postseason hunt will be in full flight in mid-January, you can bet that none of these tilts will be snooze-fests.
Eastern Conference Finish: 5th
The Capitals are still a playoff-caliber team, because even with a much more difficult divisional schedule, Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green and Braden Holtby are more than enough to get Washington into the postseason.
No, Oates' boys won't get to prey on the frail Southeast Division opponents they were able to in the past, but this team simply has too much talent not to get in.
The Caps may not earn home-ice advantage, because topping the Penguins, Rangers and Flyers during the regular season will be tough, but regardless, the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs will feature the Washington Capitals.