It's still summer in Columbus, but before you know it, hockey season will be here.
The days will get shorter and cooler, and with the Blue Jackets' home opener set for Oct. 4, we're now much closer to the return of hockey season than we are the end of last year's campaign.
Coming off the deepest playoff run in franchise history, as well as a season in which the Blue Jackets sold out 15 regular-season home dates, there should be plenty of buzz for the upcoming campaign. Columbus returns 12 of its top 13 scorers, brings back one of the deepest blue lines in the NHL, and welcomes in new blood like Gustav Nyquist, Alexandre Texier and Elvis Merzlikins.
With single-game ticket sales beginning August 23, here's a look at the highlights of the upcoming home schedule.
The ground rules
Every NHL team will visit Nationwide Arena at least once, while 11 will be in Columbus for two matchups. Those 11 are the Jackets' seven Metropolitan Division rivals - Carolina, New Jersey, the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Washington - as well as Atlantic Division foes Detroit, Tampa Bay, Florida and Ottawa.
EARLY ACCESS: Be the first to access single-game tickets by signing up for Flag Bearer
Three big promotions
The Blue Jackets have lined up some fun events throughout the entire NHL season, starting with a schedule magnet giveaway for the opener Oct. 4 vs. Toronto. Here are three other notable nights:
- Hockey Fights Cancer, presented by OhioHealth, Nov. 15: The Friday night visit from the Blues will also be one of the most anticipated nights of each season as the Blue Jackets celebrate Hockey Fights Cancer night.
- Kids Takeover, Jan. 4: A new promotion will focus on the youngest Blue Jackets fans - or perhaps the kids at heart. Youngsters will be celebrated throughout the 1 p.m. Saturday game vs. San Jose,
- '90s Throwback Night, Feb. 28: From Seinfeld to ER, Nirvana to Britney Spears, and from NHL '95 to … well, there's no more classic game, the decade will be celebrated all day as the Jackets host Minnesota in a Friday night contest.
Five must-see home games
- Nov. 15, St. Louis: The defending Stanley Cup champions made their only visit of the season to Columbus in the season's second month. Sensational young goalie Jordan Binnington and the rest of the Bluenotes should give the Jackets an early measuring stick.
- Nov. 29, Pittsburgh: It'll be rivalry weekend in Columbus when the Penguins come to down. The Black Friday showdown with the team's neighbors three hours to the east will come one day before Ohio State's annual gridiron showdown with Michigan.
- Dec. 5, New York Rangers: Not only are the Rangers always a big draw, but this will be the first game back in Nationwide Arena for former CBJ standout Artemi Panarin. This Thursday night clash should be a key one with two Metro Division points on the line.
- Dec. 31, Florida: First, it's New Year's Eve, which always provides a party atmosphere in Nationwide Arena. Second, it will be the first trip to Columbus on the season for goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
- Feb. 10, Tampa Bay: The Lightning will visit the capital city for the first time since this past season's first-round sweep at the hands of the Blue Jackets. A national TV crowd will able to watch what should be a charged-up showdown.
Here's the schedule against each Metropolitan Division foe, in alphabetical order.
- Carolina: The Eastern Conference finalists, who boast one of the top cores of young players in the NHL, visit Columbus on Oct. 24 and Jan. 16.
- New Jersey: No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes and newly acquired defenseman PK Subban are two additions to a team that struggled a year ago. The Devils are in town on Dec. 21 and Jan. 18.
- NY Rangers: No. 2 overall pick Kappo Kakko joins Panarin and newly acquired defenseman Jacob Trouba as the Blueshirts visit Nationwide on Dec. 5 and Feb. 14.
- NY Islanders: The Islanders were one of the surprise teams in the NHL a year ago, contending for the division crown. This year, Barry Trotz and Co. are in town Oct. 19 and March 30.
- Pittsburgh: The rival Penguins and Sidney Crosby are always a huge draw given the proximity and past playoff battles. Pittsburgh crosses the state line into Ohio for games Nov. 29 and March 12.
- Philadelphia: The Flyers seem to have found their savior in net in Carter Hart, but will it be enough to vault the team back into playoff contention? Philly is in town Nov. 27 and Feb. 20.
- Washington: Led by Alex Ovechkin, the Caps have been one of the NHL's most star-studded crews over the past few seasons. The 2018 Stanley Cup champs come to town for games Dec. 16 and March 19.