Well over three months before the first puck drops to start the 2010-2011 NHL Season, the National Hockey League has already released the schedule.
The original statistics are just the same as before: the season begins near the beginning of October, and will end mid-April. Each of the 30 teams plays 82 games: six against each other team in their division, four against each other team in the conference but not in their division, two games against three other teams from the other conference, and one game against 12 other teams from the other conference.
The upcoming year will, however, expand on several interesting events that have grown popular over the last few seasons.
The NHL Premiere, where teams play back-to-back games in a European city to begin the season, has expanded to six teams for the 2010 edition.
Minnesota and Carolina will open the year at noon (Eastern Time) in Helsinki, Finland on October 7, then play again on the 8th. San Jose and Columbus will play on the 8th and 9th in Stockholm, Sweden, and then Boston and Phoenix will face each other on the 9th and 10th in Prague, Czech Republic.
As it has been for three years now, New Years Day 2011 will also be the date of the 2010 NHL Winter Classic, when Pittsburgh hosts Washington. Canada will also get their share of outdoor hockey during the February 20th Heritage Classic, when Calgary hosts Montreal.
As the third and final major event of the season, the 2010 NHL All-Star Game and Skills Competition will be hosted by the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh on January 29th and 30th.
As you read over the highlights for the next autumn and winter in the scorching heat of late June, one team seems to be continuously popping up.
That would be the Carolina Hurricanes, who, after playing their first-ever game against a European opponent on an October 4th exhibition against SKA St. Petersburg (KHL), will take part in the season opener in Finland, return to North America only to stay away from home until October 27th due to the N.C. State Fair, and then host the All-Star Game at the RBC Center in late January.
It's quite a mouthful, isn't it?
Between those key dates, the day-to-day schedule for the Hurricanes also holds plenty of interesting notes and patterns.
Early October will be a time full of many openers for the 'Canes. After their trip to Finland, they'll return for their North American opener in Ottawa on October 14. Carolina will make their United States 2010-2011 debut five days later in San Jose, and then finally have their home opener on the 27th after a four-game West Coast run visiting the Canucks, Sharks, Kings, and Coyotes.
October will finish up its 10 games with a back-to-back, taking the 'Canes to Madison Square Garden on the 29th and then back to Raleigh to host the Penguins on the 30th. The month actually will be one of the quieter ones. October's 10 games are the least of any full month, compared to 14 in November, January, and March.
November will open up with a bang just two nights later as Carolina travels to Philadelphia to take on the defending Eastern Conference Champions. On the 3rd, the 'Canes will begin a stretch where they'll have seven of ten games in the RBC Center, including a rematch of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals when they host Edmonton on the 9th.
The beginning of December will also bring a strange stretch of three consecutive back-to-backs, which also encompasses a five-game road trip following a game against Colorado in Raleigh on Dec. 3rd. In that stretch will be a road date in Nashville, the final Western Conference team (along with Minnesota and Dallas) that Carolina will play twice.
The trip finishes up in Atlanta for the first meeting of six between the Thrashers and Hurricanes, beginning the annual rivalry.
Carolina will have three games Christmas week, visiting Tampa Bay on the 20th, hosting Montreal on the 23rd, and then staying home for Washington on the 26th. Following yet another of the 21 back-to-backs the Hurricanes will play in over the course of the season, the 'Canes will then kick off 2011 with a game against the Devils in Raleigh on January 1st.
A January 13th game in Buffalo will make the Sabres the last of the 14 other Eastern Conference teams to begin their four-game season series with the Hurricanes. The two teams will play each other three times in March and April.
Boston will visit the Carolinas on January 18th for the back end of a home-and-home between the two opponents, the last of five matinee games over the course of the year.
Following the five-day All-Star Game break, once the excitement of the event dies down in Raleigh, the 'Canes will finish their first four-game series of the season, playing the Bruins again on February 1st. From the 8th to the 16th, the 'Canes will embark on yet another five-game road swing, visiting Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and New Jersey twice.
Once they return from that "vacation," the Hurricanes will have their longest homestand of the season (four games) to get back to normal. The Flyers, Rangers, Pens, and most notably the Devils will be the opponents. The game against New Jersey on the 19th will be the third game between the two sides in just 11 days, and will also finish out the season series.
Just before the trade deadline, the Hurricanes will get their one and only try in Chicago to defeat the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, who did fall to the 'Canes 4-2 in their one hookup last season.
On March 11th, Carolina will resume their interrupted six-game set with the Capitals, who they met four times in the fall but had not played since the day after Christmas. A similar situation will be brought into play on the 22nd, when the 'Canes host the Senators for the first (and last) time since Dec. 29th, despite meeting them three times in late 2010.
For the final 12 games of the year, including the match with Ottawa, eight of them will be in the RBC Center, hopefully giving the Hurricanes a convenient chance to finish strong. The middle six games will also be the second of two stretches of three straight back-to-back matches, including the final game against rival Washington on March 29th.
After hosting the Red Wings for the first time in almost three calendar years, Carolina will play the 81st and 82nd games of their 82-game regular season with a inner-division back-to-back, playing in Atlanta on April 8th and then hosting the Lightning on April 9th.
No matter the event, we already know that the 2010-2011 NHL Season is going to be a very interesting one for the Carolina Hurricanes. The matter now is, who's going to be on the roster once we get there?
Photo Credit: NHL.com
Mark Jones is currently Bleacher Report's featured columnist and community leader for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes . In his 21 months so far with the site, he has written over 205 articles and received over 145,000 total reads.
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