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What You Need to Know for 2013-14

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

New division rivals, a new schedule format and a different way to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs...a lot has changed since we last dropped the puck.

Below are some notes on the changes to get you ready for the 2013-14 season.

The NHL has re-aligned to a four-division format for geographic purposes. Both the Western Conference and Eastern Conference now have two divisions each. The Blues remain in the Western Conference's Central Division, but have said goodbye to the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets, who both moved to the Eastern Conference. The Blues have four new division rivals though: Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota and Winnipeg.

Each Western Conference division features seven teams, while the Eastern Conference divisions each feature eight teams.

Western Conference

Central Division: Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets

Pacific Division: Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks

Eastern Conference

Metropolitan Division: Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals

Atlantic Division:
Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs

Like past seasons, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will feature 16 teams (eight from both conferences), but qualifying for the playoffs has changed.

Now, the top three teams in each division (12 teams total) will be guaranteed a playoff berth. The remaining playoff spots in each conference will be filled by the next two highest-place finishers regardless of division. In this format, It's possible that the Central Division sends five teams to the playoffs while the Pacific Division only sends three.

For the first time in 16 years, the Blues will play at least one home game with EVERY team in the NHL. The Winnipeg Jets return to St. Louis on Oct. 29, while Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are here on Nov. 9. In addition, Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals visits April 8.

The Blues will host former division rivals Columbus on Jan. 4 and Detroit on April 13.

As far as division rivals go, the Blues will play five of their division rivals five times each. The remaining division rival (Colorado) will be played four times this season. Next season, a different division rival will only be played four times.

Here's the entire breakdown of the new schedule format:

Within Conference (Division): 29 games
  • 5 games vs. five teams (3 Home/2 Away vs. two teams, 2 Home/3 Away vs. three teams) AND 4 games vs. one team (2 Home/2 Away). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
  • 5 X 5 = 25 games
  • 1 X 4 = 4 games
Within Conference (Non-Division): 21 games
  • 3 games vs. each team (2 Home/1 Away vs. four teams, 1 Home/2 Away vs. three teams). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
  • 3 X 7 = 21 games
Non-Conference: 32 games
  • 2 games vs. each team (1 Home/1 Away)
  • 2 X 16 = 32 games

NHL players will head to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. As a result, the NHL schedule will pause from Feb. 9 - 25. The Blues could have quite a few players representing their countries. As of July 24, eight have already been invited to Olympic Orientation Camps.

As a result of the Olympic break, there will be no All-Star game this season.
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