Today, the NHL has released their schedule for the 2011-12 regular season. Like every other team in the league, the New Jersey Devils have their schedule available with dates and times. TV information and single game tickets remain "to be determined." One step at a time, I suppose.
While we're waiting on that along with not knowing what the Devils or their opponents (e.g. the now-Carter-and-Richards-less Flyers) will look like next season, now is a good time as any to break down the schedule. That along with circling some dates on the calendar for some games, too. Let's go over both after the jump.
First, let's have a breakdown of the schedule month-by-month compared with last season's schedule.
Your eyes are not deciving you, the Devils are going to be busy in March at the expense of playing fewer games in October and April. A playoff push is going to be very trying should the Devils need one late in the season. There's also an increase in games in November and December.
Second, let's breakdown the schedule by date.
I hope you're not a fan of Sunday games. Not only do you have to wait until February for the first one, there's not a lot of them on the schedule. I'm also still trying to figure out why Tuesday has come up so much while Wednesday is barren beyond January 2012. I guess that's how the arena availability worked out for New Jersey and other teams? It still struck me as somewhat odd. At least the most common game date is Saturday, which makes the most sense for home gates - regardless of whether the Devils are hosting or not. The NHL is a gate-driven league, after all.
Third, per the game-by-game listing at the Devils website, the Devils will have five road trips, which I will define as 4+ road games in a row. They end October with a 4-game trip that takes them into Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Dallas (10/22 - 10/29). The middle of November has a 5-game Eastern Conference road trip through Washington, Boston, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, and Florida (11/12 - 11/21). The last date in November kicks off a 4-game road trip in Colorado, followed by games in Minnesota, Winnipeg, and Toronto (11/30 - 12/6). January has New Jersey traveling for 4 straight games starting in Pittsburgh, then Calgary, then Edmonton, and finally in Winnipeg (1/7 - 1/14). At least that's followed by a 6-game homestand. The Devils will have their final road trip of the season with an east coast jaunt through the Rangers, Boston, Washington, and the Islanders (2/27 - 3/4).
As for homestands (4+ home games in a row), the Devils really only have the one that takes up a big chunk out of January and the first date in February. From January 17 through February 2, they'll host Winnipeg, Boston, Philadelphia, Buffalo, the Rangers, and Montreal.
Fourth, the Devils will not be playing in Anaheim, Vancouver, San Jose, Chicago, St. Louis, or Columbus this season. Apologies to the Devils fans out in those areas of the country. Likewise, local Devils fans will not get a chance to see Phoenix, Detroit, Minnesota, Calgary, Edmonton, or Nashville at the Rock in the 2011-12 regular season. Such as it is with the NHL scheduling.
Fifth, I'll go into more depth with the back-to-backs when they come closer. By my count, the Devils will have 15 (30 games), which is a nice relief over recent regular seasons. It breaks down evenly between the two calendar years They'll have 1 in October, 4 in November, 3 in December; while having 3, 2, and 2 in January, February, and March respectively. Unfortunately, none of them are two back-to-back games at the Rock. They all involve at least road game.
Lastly, here are some notable dates for games for 2011-12 as of this writing:
- October 8 - Devils vs. Flyers. It's the home opener and it's the Second Rate Rivals. Let's spoil the Ilya Bryzgalov debut or at least hold up signs that say "Holmgren Can't Count."
- October 10 - Devils vs. Hurricanes - 1 PM start on a day that most people don't get off. Expect a really poor attendance at the Rock. Boo to the schedule.
- October 13 - Devils vs. Kings. - This is notable because Mike Richards will be at the Rock. Devils players, watch your backs when you're along the boards - he sees them as targets. Just ask Tim Connolly.
- October 22 - Devils at Penguins - Maybe we'll see Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in this one?
- October 25 - Devils at Kings. - A.K.A. The set your DVRs, VCRs, or stay up late game. This will be the latest EST/EDT start time for a Devils game this season. October 27 comes close with a 10 PM start in Phoenix.
- November 5 - Devils vs. ??? - As of this writing, the Winnipeg franchise doesn't have a nickname. The Whatevers will be visiting the Rock with a name by then. I suggest calling them Poser Thrashers anyway. (Oh, and they're in the Southeast Division, so the Devils get to visit them twice.)
- November 15 - Devils at Bruins. - The Devils will play the defending Stanley Cup Champions for the first time in their house in mid-November. That should be good. We'll see whether Tim Thomas is still Hasek-ing next season (highly unlikely).
- November 25 & 26 - Devils home-and-home with Islanders - Two post-Thanksgiving games, two 1 PM EST starts, and the first and second meetings between these two.
- December 20 - Devils vs. Rangers. - That's right, the schedule is set up so that the Devils won't get to face Our Hated Rivals until late December. Make what you will of that.
- December 31 - Devils vs. Penguins - First Devils-Penguins game at the Rock, a nice 1 PM start on New Year's Eve so you can do things later on NYE.
- January 17 - Devils vs. ??? - The Devils will play their second home game against Winnipeg to kick off a 6 game homestand. Plan your tickets accordingly.
- March 17 - Devils vs. Penguins - Devils against a big team on St. Patrick's Day? Hmmmm, I wonder if the Devils will wear some special ugly jerseys from another time on that day? Maybe Patrik Elias will have a big night?
- April 5 - Devils at Red Wings - The penultimate regular season game against the always-difficult Detroit Red Wings. Will this be the last time they see the legendary Nicklas Lidstrom? At this rate, probably not?
- April 7 - Devils vs. Senators - The final home game and final regular season game for the Devils.
What do you think of the Devils' 2011-12 schedule? Are you already fearing what will happen with 17 games in March? Has this helped you consider what games you want go see, providing? Don't you wish each NHL team plays each other at least twice so every arena sees each team like I do? What other notable dates do you see in the schedule? Please leave your answers and other comments about the 11-12 schedule.