This afternoon the National Hockey League released the entire regular season schedule for the 2013-2014 season.
The Panthers learned they will be starting the year on the road when they open at the rebranded Dallas Stars on October 3, the first day of the regular season. They will have three more games away from the BB&T Center before returning home Friday, October 11 to take on Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Eastern Conference runner-up Pittsburgh Penguins. The opening four-game road trip will be the first of three of those season-high trips for the Cats.
In addition to the schedule, Florida’s new division as part of conference realignment got a new name in the Atlantic Division. In addition to the Panthers, the Atlantic includes: the Lightning and Red Wings, as well as the former Northeast Division members Boston, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, and Montreal.
5 Teams to be sure to catch at the BB&T Center
Chicago Blackhawks–October 22
The defending Stanley Cup make their only trip to South Florida in the first month of the season. The Cats will be on their first multi-game home stand and take on their third playoff team in a row following the eastern conference champion Boston Bruins and the western conference’s eighth seed Minnesota Wild. Besides being Stanley Cup champions, the Blackhawks have a young veteran core in Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa who will present great match-ups with the likes of the Panthers Jonathan Huberdeau, Drew Shore and possibly Aleksander Barkov. Let’s not forget Brain Campbell, Tomas Kopecky were traded south after the Blackhawks unloaded their Stanley Cup core for the second straight off season in 2011 after winning the Cup in 2010, and they’ll be facing their former club for the first time in over a year.
Detroit Red Wings–December 10, 28, February 6
The Red Wings are one of two teams to make the jump from the western to eastern conference and it just so happens they’re a member of the new Atlantic Division along with the Panthers. Detroit’s never really rebuilding but reloading. Niclas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom have sailed off into the sunset leaving Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and the newly acquired Swede Daniel Alfredsson as the elder Swedish statesman on the squad. Not to mention Pavel Datsyuk is very entertaining, even against your own team.
Pittsburgh Penguins– October 11 (Panthers Home Opener), November 30
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury – the star power is what makes the Penguins fun to watch whether you root for or against the Black & Gold. Fleury will be looking to regain his all-star form before his shaky playoff performance left him riding the pine pony in favor of backup Tomas Vokoun. The Pittsburgh powerplay is one of the best in the game and has been for the past few years.
Vancouver Canucks–March 16
Vancouver’s lone trip to the BB&T Center comes later in the regular season. It should be interesting for Cats fans to see Roberto Luongo back in Sunrise starting full-time between the pipes for the Canucks after his co-starter Cory Schneider was dealt to the Devils during the first round of April’s entry draft. Depending on where the Canucks and Panthers are in the standings at this point, this could be a great game featuring not only another return of ‘Lu’ to Sunrise, but one between playoff contenders and maybe even a possible Cup preview. Crazier things have happened.
Colorado Avalanche–January 24
The lone match-up at BB&T center with the Avalanche will feature two of the league’s up and coming superstars in Huberdeau and Avalanche Captain Gabriel Landeskog. Add Barkov and last month’s No. 1 overall pick in the draft, Nathan MacKinnon and you have star-studded talent berserk. If both squads are making playoff pushes and rebounding from the worst and second-worst league records, which is very possible, that would make the match-up that much sweeter.
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