Alright hockey fans, the time has finally come: we're rolling out the 2012-13 Blue Jackets regular season schedule.
The National Hockey League officially released the regular season schedule for all 30 member clubs tonight after the Players' Association ratified the new collective bargaining agreement and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed off on by both parties. For the Blue Jackets, this means a 48-game schedule that spans a total of 99 days and as many have said throughout, it will be an absolute sprint from start to finish.
But that's fun, right?
Here's what Brandon Dubinsky said about the schedule this week: "And hey, 48 games is a short season and it’s like jumping right into a playoff race almost. If you get behind the eight-ball early, it might be a tough hole to climb out of. You have to try to get some wins early…we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that’s us.”
If you thought the Western Conference playoff race was intense last year (and remember, the eighth-seeded team eventually won the Stanley Cup), I think we're going to see a whole different level in 2013. It's like packing 82 games of valuable points into 48, which leads me to believe we're going to see an extremely high quality brand of hockey every night.
Let's break down some of the key dates on the Blue Jackets' schedule:
-- The Blue Jackets open their season against a familiar foe, the Nashville Predators. The two clubs square off Saturday night (Jan. 19) at Bridgestone Arena, where they've been locked in some memorable games over the years. James Wisniewski's overtime goal last November broke a long losing skid in Nashville, and Columbus hopes it's a sign of better things to come in the Music City.
-- Opening night is Monday, Jan. 21 against the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena. This rivalry has gotten better over the years and I thought last year's games were the most spirited in recent memory. The Blue Jackets will unveil (officially) all of the incredible upgrades at Nationwide Arena, including the Dispatch Media Center scoreboard...you'll want to check it out.
-- Columbus will begin a five-game homestand on Feb. 2 against the Red Wings and close it out Feb. 11 against San Jose. It's the Blue Jackets' longest homestand of the season and wraps up a stretch of playing nine of their first 13 games at Nationwide Arena. If you're looking for a chance for the Blue Jackets to make some early noise, that's a good place to look.
-- From Mar. 3 to Mar. 22, the Blue Jackets will play nine of 10 games at Nationwide Arena, beginning with the Colorado Avalanche and closing with the Calgary Flames. On the surface, it looks like another big opportunity for Columbus to make a push if it's in playoff contention.
-- On Jan. 26, the Chicago Blackhawks are in town for a Saturday night showdown, and these games are never short on plot lines or entertainment value. It's no secret the Blue Jackets and Blackhawks have no love lost for one another, and I'm anxious to see how the rivalry evolves in 2013.
Also, here's a more detailed of breakdown of the 2013 Blue Jackets schedule:
The Blue Jackets will play division opponents Detroit (three at home, two on the road) and Nashville (two at home and three on the road) five times each with four games (two at home and two on the road) against division foes Chicago and St. Louis. The club will play eight home and seven road games vs. Northwest Division clubs and seven home and eight road games against Pacific Division opponents.
Columbus is scheduled for five Monday games, eight Tuesday games, two Wednesday games, 10 Thursday games, six Friday games, 10 Saturday games and seven games on Sundays.
On a calendar-style breakdown, the Blue Jackets play eight games in January, 12 in February, 16 in March and 12 in April. There are 11 sets of back-to-back games on the schedule for Columbus, as well.