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NHL Schedule Analysis: The Season Begins

Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford

A freelance writer of all things but mostly sports, music and politics, Brian Rutherford was raised on Long Island, NY and currently resides in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. His favorite teams are the New York Rangers, Texas Rangers, New York Giants and New York Knicks. "So the difference I think, boils down to this: you can either impose yourself on reality and then write about it, or you can impose yourself on reality by writing it." -Hunter S. Thompson "The Proud Highway"

The NHL Schedule Analysis is back, and there's no time to waste. Our first edition will cover the first eleven days of the 2011-12 campaign. Eleven teams will play five or more games in the first week and a half of the season, including six by the currently "Sid-less" Pens and five road games for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Yup, the preseason is officially over and we all know how useless those standings are. Even your writers have drafted their final teams. So now that it's go time, let's take a glance at some key match-ups and trends as you look to prepare your lineups.

First, the Trends

TGP= Total Games Played
B2B= Games Played on Back-to-Back Nights

Your Key Match-ups

OCT 6

Philadelphia at Boston 7:00 pm
2010-11: Bruins 3-1
- Revisiting an Eastern Conference second round match-up, the Flyers are now a different team and may be looking for some quick revenge.

Pittsburgh at Vancouver 10:00 pm
2010-11: Penguins 1-0
- Still awaiting the return of Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh heads out West to start the season against a Vancouver team that has changed a bit.

OCT 7

Anaheim at Buffalo 1:00 PM (Finland)
2010-11: Sabres 1-0
Will the Christian Ehrhoff signing pay immediate dividends against the Sabres' early season West Coast opponents?

NY Rangers at Los Angeles 1:00 PM (Sweden)
2010-11: Rangers 1-0
- Anze Kopitar should produce nicely, and keep an eye on Jonathan Bernier as he creeps up behind Jonathan Quick for the starter's job. Dustin Penner's (lower-body) presence in this game is still up in the air. The Rangers begin their season with three road games. Marc Staal (concussion) was added to the IR, allowing 20-year-old rookie Tim Erixon to get his feet wet. Brandon Dubinsky appears to have locked up on a line with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. Sean Avery cleared waivers but will he report to Connecticut of the AHL?

Nashville at Columbus 7:00 PM
2010-11: Predators, 4-3
- This looks to become a fantastic rivalry this season. Both teams are again counting on their small-market contracted wingers. The Preds need players like Sergei Kostitsyn and Mr. Underwood (Mike Fisher) to produce before their defensive game will produce wins. Columbus looks to newcomers Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski for veteran impact, all while Steve Mason is the most important ingredient to their success.

Chicago at Dallas 8:30 PM
2010-11: Stars, 3-1
- These two large market organizations begin the season with a home-and-home series on back-to-back nights. As Ray Flowers reports, Mike Ribeiro is off to another great season with tape-to-tape precision. What a difference a season makes, as Chicago brings back near (Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky) everyone from last season. And then some includes: Steve Montador (Buffalo), Andrew Brunette (Minnesota), Daniel Carcillo (Philadelphia), Ray Emery (Anaheim), Jamal Mayers (San Jose), and Sean O'Donnell (Philadelphia) all join the second city movement.

OCT 8

Nashville at St. Louis 8:00 pm
2010-11: Blues, 4-1
- Nashville, the preseason's top point-getter, once again has a bit to prove this season. St. Louis seems destined for a wonderful winter of over-achievement. This should turn into a great season series either way. More upside with the Blues, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund and veteran addition Jason Arnott will be the deciding factors.

OCT 9

Pittsburgh at Edmonton 9:00 pm
2010-11: Penguins 1-0
- The Penguins have a hellacious 14-game first month, and the Oilers may look to start off their season on a gold rush. Edmonton's 2011 top overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (18 years old) made it out of camp. Could this team get any younger? At this time, no word out of big E as to who is manlier, Nikolai Khabibulin or Devan Dubnyk. Flag the variable.

Montreal at Winnipeg 5:00 pm
2010-11: Tied, 2-2
- Is there a more fitting organization to schedule for the Jets' first regular season home-game since 1996? Let's all hope Dustin Byfuglien gets his habits in order.
OCT 12

Vancouver at Philadelphia 7:30 PM
2010-11: Canucks 1-0
- Philadelphia looks to make a stand as part of the NHL's elite, while Vancouver just endures a busy five-game start in the first 11 days. It seems like everyone is jumping on the Jaromir Jagr bandwagon, are you? If so, how much are you paying?

Boston at Carolina 7:30 PM
2010-11: Bruins 3-1
- The defending Stanley Cup champions should not look past an always stingy Hurricanes team. Mark Recchi (retired), Michael Ryder (free agent Dallas) and Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) are not defending their cup. Carolina didn't do much in the off-season as they are counting on a few AHL promotions. As Peter Maingot suggests, is there anyone that doesn't have faith in Cam Ward again this season?

OCT 13

Washington at Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
2010-11: Capitals 3-1
- The Capitals will look to jump the gun on an overwhelmed Penguins team. Pittsburgh plays six games (3 H, 3 A) between now and the 16th of October.

Vancouver at Detroit 7:30 PM
2010-11: Canucks 2-0
- Yet again, both favorites of their conference. Forget Nic Cage, is Nicklas Lidstrom a vampire?

OCT 15

NY Rangers at NY Islanders 7:00 PM
2010-11: Rangers 4-2
- After all of that Al Montoya hype, there's word Rick DiPietro may end up with the starting spot between the pipes. Will the Isles take advantage of four home games to start the season? There's an enormous amount of pressure for Brad Richards on Broadway. Mats Zuccarello will either burn up or fade away. Looks like another season of lackluster Rangers/Islanders rivalry games ahead.

Los Angeles at Philadelphia 7:00 PM
2010-11: Tied, 1-1
- Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Both the Mike Richards deal and the NHL schedule were announced this past summer on the 23rd of June. Great early season match-up of summer partners and Conference favorites.

Winnipeg at Phoenix 7:00 PM
2010-11: Coyotes 1-0
- Sadly, I'm assuming this is NOT the first time an NHL team has played it former-self. That's all I've got to say about that.

St. Louis at San Jose 10:00 PM
2010-11: Sharks, 1-3
- The Blues have one of the most difficult schedules over this next 11 days. I firmly believe by the end of the season, we'll all look to the Lou for a competitive and fluid squad.

OCT 16

St. Louis at Anaheim 8:00 PM
2010-11: Tied, 2-2
- Has Anaheim been out of playoff contention ever, at all? Teemu belongs in Winnipeg!

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Burst out of the weekend: Zach Parise
Burst out of the weekend: Kevin Shattenkirk
Burst out of the weekend: Jimmy Howard

Soon to burst: Brandon Dubinsky
Soon to burst: Kevin Bieksa
Soon to burst: Semyon Varlamov

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