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by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks
 At first glance, the 2008-09 National Hockey League schedule looks like it has dealt the Vancouver Canucks its share of challenges.

Among the things that jump off the page, the heavy road schedule to start the season with the Canucks opening at home October 9th against Calgary and following that up with six straight road games. Factor in a seven game Western Conference odyssey (consecutive road games in Calgary, Columbus, Detroit, Minnesota, Colorado, Nashville and Edmonton) in late November and the first two weeks of December, and the Canucks will play 19 of their first 30 games next season away from home.

A second six-game journey late in the year also means the Canucks will finish with eight of their last dozen games away from General Motors Place.

Take all that into account and it would appear the Canucks will have their work cut out for them early in the season and then they’ll have to find a way to finish up strong. And from mid-December through mid-March, the Canucks will have to make hay with a stretch of 26 of 40 games played on home ice.

Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight.

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1. October 9, 2008 – the home and season opener against Calgary.

Mats Sundin’s Canuck debut…okay, perhaps that’s a tad premature. But there’s always something special about opening night and since the Canucks don’t play a home game again until October 25th, hockey fans in this city will have to get their fix that night

2. October 13, 2008 – third game of the season takes the Canucks to Washington to face Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals.

It’s always an event when Roberto Luongo gets a chance to stare down the top sniper in the game and this will be no exception.

3. November 15, 2008 – the Toronto Maple Leafs come calling for the first time in three years.

It’ll be a rare 4pm start at GM Place so that Leafs fans back east don’t have to stay up too late.

4. November 19, 2008 – the Canucks take their show to Madison Square Garden to face Markus Naslund and the Rangers (how strange does that sound?) .

5. November 22, 2008 – it’s a 10am start Vancouver time and Sid the Kid and the Penguins are on the brunch menu.

Let’s hope this one is half as exciting as last year’s meeting between the two teams at GM Place.

6. December 30, 2008 – a visit by the Philadelphia Flyers between Christmas and New Year’s used to be a common occurrence, but not any more.

That’s why it will be special to see the Flyers roll into town during the holiday season

7. February 15, 2009 – led by B.C. boy Carey Price, the Montreal Canadiens come calling the night after Valentine’s Day.

There’s never any love lost between Canucks fans and Habs fans when they get the Garage jumping and this night will surely be no exception.

8. February 21, 2009 – the Canucks will spend Hockey Day in Canada in Toronto facing the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

Just think what that night would be like if Mats Sundin was wearing a Canuck jersey.

9. February 24, 2009 – the Canucks are in Montreal.

The last time they were there Roberto Luongo spent the night in hospital before shutting out the Habs. The Canucks would certainly take a similar result, but they could do without the health scare.

10. February 27, 2009 – Lightning is in the forecast for GM Place.

Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and first-overall draft pick Steve Stamkos will certainly provide some electricity as Tampa Bay makes a rare visit to Vancouver. Barry Melrose may even have his mullet back by then.
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