NHL Teams Facing a Grueling Start to the 2013-14 Season

Franklin SteeleAnalyst IISeptember 30, 2013

NHL Teams Facing a Grueling Start to the 2013-14 Season

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    All 30 teams were forced into a sprint-like campaign because of the lockout in 2013.

    The 2013-14 NHL season won't be truncated due to a work stoppage, meaning that squads will be able to settle into the usual rhythm of a season.

    A few away games, come home for a small stand, maybe a back-to-back tossed in there for good measure. Rinse and repeat for 82 contests.

    While that's the case for most of the teams in the NHL, there are a few franchises that weren't done any favors by the NHL's schedule makers.

    Whether it's a ridiculous stretch on the road to open the season or an opening docket of games against tough teams, there are squads that are facing an uphill climb before the season even begins.

     

    All scheduling information appears courtesy of NHL.com.

New York Rangers: October 3 Through October 29

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    With Madison Square Garden undergoing the final phase of its renovation, the New York Rangers will be forced to play their first nine games on the road.

    While lengthy road trips to open the season aren't anything new to the Blueshirts, one of this proportion could make or break New York's campaign before it plays the home opener on October 28 against the Montreal Canadiens.

    While the team has had an entire training camp to learn new coach Alain Vigneault's systems, there's little doubt that they'd benefit from a bit more of a normal schedule to open this important campaign.

    After the home opener, it's back on the road to play on Long Island before a four-game home stand kicks in.

    The trip isn't highlighted by particularly easy match-ups either.

    The Rangers will take on the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks in back-to-back nights on October 7 and 8 before playing the Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals over the next eight days.

Anaheim Ducks: October 22 Through November 4

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    The 2013-14 season starts regularly enough for the Anaheim Ducks.

    They begin the year with a three-game road trip and then go back to the Honda Center for the next five games. That will carry the Ducks through to October 20.

    They hit the road then for an away contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 22, and remain away from home until November 4.

    Anaheim plays eight straight road games over that span, giving it the second-longest road streak in the NHL this season.

    That trip will carry Anaheim away from the warmer California climate and through Canada and the Northeast United States just as winter starts to set in.

    How the squad performs during this eight-game stretch could go a long way towards determining just how solid of a season it has overall.

Ottawa Senators: October 4 Through October 15

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    Like the New York Rangers, the Ottawa Senators will spend a lot of time out on the road before playing their home opener. While a six-game road trip may not seem all that brutal, the sheer distance the Sens will be travelling is absolutely ridiculous.

    On October 4 they play in Buffalo, then head about 100 miles north to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Not too brutal, right?

    From there, they fly approximately 2,518 miles to play the Los Angeles Kings just five days after playing in Buffalo, New York.

    The Senators stay in California for their next two games, facing off against the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks in back-to-back nights on October 12 and 13.

    They take to the skies once again after that, heading 350-some miles east to do battle with the Phoenix Coyotes.

    All of this happens before taking another 2,500-plus-mile plane ride from the desert to Ottawa where they are scheduled to play the New Jersey Devils only two days later.

    Does anyone else feel jet lagged all of a sudden?

New Jersey Devils:

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    Compared to the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers, the New Jersey Devils don't have it so bad.

    Still, the team leads the NHL in back-to-back games played in 2013-14 with more than half of their games coming on consecutive nights.

    That trend kicks off right away for the Devils.

    They open the season on the road against the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 4 before returning home to face the New York Islanders the following night. The Devils then get the next three days to recuperate before playing another set of back-to-back games.

    This time, it's an away-away series against the Edmonton Oilers on October 7 and the Vancouver Canucks on October 8. New Jersey then stays in Canada for its following three games before coming back to the Prudential Center for an October 19 contest against the New York Rangers.

    The Rangers will still not have made their home debut in 2013-14 by that stage. 

Vancouver Canucks: October 15 Through October 25

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    The quality of competition early on isn't too brutal for the Vancouver Canucks as they try to quickly adjust to a new Divisional alignment, but the seven games in 10 days road trip is rather shattering.

    Vancouver's season opens normally enough, with four of its first six games at home. After an October 12 date with the Montreal Canadiens, the Canucks hit the road for a tough 10-day patch that sees them play seven times—all while wearing the road whites.

    The only saving grace might be the fact that they'll face only three 2013 playoff teams during that stretch, and could actually secure a nice points streak if they play well enough.

    The Philadelphia Flyers, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils are all beatable.

    Laced throughout those games are contests with the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues.

Tampa Bay Lightning: October 3 Through October 24

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    After making the playoffs only once over the last six years, the Tampa Bay Lightning need to have a solid 2013-14 season to prevent some likely front office shakeups and trades.

    That won't be an easy task though, as they play some of the toughest teams in the NHL early on, getting a taste of how hard life in the new Atlantic Division will be.

    They open the season by visiting the Boston Bruins on October 3, then head to Chicago to play the Blackhawks on October 5. After a contest against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center, the Lightning will return home to the Tampa Bay Time Forum for a seven-game home stand.

    Under normal circumstances, this would be good news.

    That might not be the case for the Lightning though, as five of those seven games come against teams that made the playoffs in 2013. If Tampa fancies itself a contender, they'll have a chance to prove it early.

    During that home streak, they'll face off with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks. Yikes.

    It's not entirely inconceivable that the Lightning start the season 3-7, and that's only if they can manage to take down Buffalo twice and the Florida Panthers once.