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The Deets: Jackets' schedule is a good one

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

COLUMBUS, Ohio – We knew a few months ago that the battle would be moving east. Now we know exactly where it’s headed.

The Blue Jackets and the National Hockey League announced the 2013-14 regular season schedule this afternoon and for the first time in franchise history, Columbus finds itself in the Eastern Conference with a completely different scheduling dynamic. In the eight-team Metropolitan Division with Carolina, New Jersey, both New York clubs (Rangers and Islanders), Washington, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the Blue Jackets will play the majority of their games in the Eastern time zone and have limited travel that involves time changes.

Having taken a long look at the Blue Jackets’ schedule, there are several items that stand out as key moments or “important stretches” and those will be focal points as we dig deeper into the 82-game slate.

NOTE: We have a comprehensive breakdown (which includes photos) of the Blue Jackets’ new division opponents, some notable home games on the schedule and the top goaltenders in the Eastern Conference.

Where do we begin? How about opening night against the Calgary Flames on a Friday night at Nationwide Arena? It doesn’t get any better than that. The irony of the Blue Jackets (a new member of the East) opening their season against a western Canadian team isn’t lost on anyone, but the Flames are beginning their season on a road trip and their first stop happens to be in Columbus.

From there, it only gets better. For starters: 22 of the Blue Jackets' 41 home games will be played on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights.

The Blue Jackets play six home games in the month of October and close out the season’s opening month with four straight on home ice. After a Friday night game against the Boston Bruins on Oct. 12 at Nationwide Arena, they’ll face Vancouver, New Jersey, Toronto and Anaheim to finish the month and then begin a November schedule that will fully introduce them to the new conference.

November kicks off with a home-and-home series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, which should go a ways toward jump-starting a new division rivalry.

There’s nothing better to fuel the fire than a little familiarity, and the Penguins are one of two division opponents that Columbus faces five teams this season (the other is the Carolina Hurricanes).

Beginning with the home half of the mini-series with Pittsburgh, the Blue Jackets have a pretty entertaining November schedule. After a back-to-back with Boston (road) and Montreal (home) on Nov. 15, the Blue Jackets then head out for a Canadian road trip against Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto during the week of American Thanksgiving. 

As we make our way into December, the Blue Jackets continue to meet their new division opponents. They’ll face the Philadelphia Flyers for the first time on Dec. 19 at the Wells Fargo Center, come back to Columbus to play the Flyers at Nationwide Arena on Dec. 21 (a Saturday night game) and play the first of five meetings with Carolina on Dec. 23 in Raleigh. The Blue Jackets will play a game on New Year’s Eve this year but it won’t be in Columbus; that game is against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

January is highlighted by a pair of home games against the Washington Capitals and a rare trip to MTS Centre in Winnipeg, where the Blue Jackets last played during the 2011-12 pre-season. Once the first month of 2014 comes to a close, Columbus has just four games left (three on the road in California) before the NHL takes a two-week break for the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Right out of the break, the Blue Jackets head to Prudential Center in New Jersey before taking on a March slate featuring several familiar foes from the Western Conference. Dallas, Detroit, Chicago, Minnesota, Nashville and San Jose are all on the March docket, which is rounded out by a back-to-back with Pittsburgh (home on March 28) and Carolina (in Raleigh on March 29).

Following the Olympic break, Columbus plays 24 games and exactly half of them are at home.

Here’s the Metropolitan Division schedule matrix for the Blue Jackets:

Carolina – five games (two home, three away)

New Jersey – four games (two home, two away)

New York Islanders – four games (two home, two away)

New York Rangers – four games (two home, two away)

Pittsburgh – five games (three home, two away)

Philadelphia – four games (two home, two away)

Washington – four games (two home, two away)

The Blue Jackets will play the other Eastern Conference teams three times with a combination of home/away scheduling (one or two home dates each depending on opponent).

In April, they close out the regular season slate with four home games and three road games from Apr. 1-12. The home finale is Apr. 8 against the Phoenix Coyotes and four days later, the Blue Jackets play game No. 82 in south Florida against the Panthers.

Perhaps the best part of this schedule? The Blue Jackets will play just 14 of their 82 games outside of the Eastern time zone after playing 29 such games in 2011-12. Before this season, the only Eastern time zone road game on Columbus’ schedule (in-conference) was in Detroit.

Times are changing for the better, and one look at the 2013-14 schedule proves that.

The battle has officially moved east.

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