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One Minute Remaining: Challenging schedule for the champions

by Harvey Wittenberg / Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks will begin the tough task of defending their 2013 Cup title on Oct. 1, when they raise their championship banner before taking on the Washington Capitals.

With every team targeting the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Blackhawks will try to become the first NHL team to repeat since 1998, when Detroit accomplished that feat (coached by Scotty Bowman, current Blackhawks Senior Advisor to Hockey Operations).

Chicago became the first squad to capture both the Presidents' Trophy for the league's best regular-season record and the Stanley Cup since Detroit turned the trick in 2008. And by becoming the first team to win a second title since the hard salary cap went into effect and setting a new record by starting the season with a 24-game point streak, the players know their opponents will use every contest as a measuring stick against them.

They'll open the campaign in defense of their championship on Oct. 1 against Washington, marking only the second time that the two teams have faced off in a season opener, with the other occurring on Oct. 5, 1996, in Washington. The Blackhawks prevailed 5-2 in that game.

In the 2010 Cup year, Washington compiled 121 points to capture the Presidents' Trophy, but were upset in seven games in the opening series by the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadien—similar to the route that Los Angeles took in capturing their first franchise title in 2012, when they overcame the top three seeds in the Western Conference en route to the Final.

This year's schedule has 17 back-to-back games, the same as the 2009-10 campaign, when the Blackhawks registered 20 wins, eight regulation losses and six overtime or shootout losses. Last season's shortened schedule saw the team pick up 16 wins, two defeats and two overtime and shootout losses in their 10 back-to-backs.

The Hawks will have 22 home contests in a first half of the season that features the usual long seven-game November road trip; in the second half they'll embark on another six-game stretch before the Olympic break in February.

The "One Goal" remains to win another Cup, and Head Coach Joel Quenneville knows that his players won't want to rest on their laurels and are eager to drink from Lord Stanley again to delight their great Chicago fans!

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