Balanced and fair.
That’s how GM and coach Jacques Martin described the Panthers’ 2007-08 schedule, which was released Wednesday by the National Hockey League.
The Panthers, who will celebrate their home opener Oct. 6 against the New Jersey Devils but will open the season two days earlier when they travel to Broadway to play the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Opening the season in New York against the Rangers, who acquired Chris Drury and Scott Gomez over the off-season, won’t be the only test the Panthers will face early. Their first 12 games include contests against the Stanley Cup finalist Senators, the rejuvenated Flyers, and the Sabres, Maple Leafs and Lightning.
“No doubt there are difficult stretches,” Martin said. “But the one thing I really like about the schedule is there’s a good balance. In the month of October, for instance, we have six home games and six road games. We have a few more on the road in November (eight away, six home) but we catch up in December (eight home, five away).”
In fact, the balance continues throughout the schedule. By the end of January, the Panthers will have played 26 games on the road and 26 games at home.
The Panthers will also do a lot less traveling during single-game road trips this season. Of their eight, single-game trips this season, three will go to Tampa and three more to Atlanta.
Some highlights on the schedule:
*The Panthers will play host to the Rangers the night after Thanksgiving, Nov. 23, at 7:30 p.m.
The Flyers, who added Daniel Briere, Kimmo Timonen, Jason Smith and Scott Hartnell, pull into the BankAtlantic twice, Oct. 24 and Dec. 30.
*Sidney Crosby and Penguins also travel to the BankAtlantic Center twice – Jan. 8 and March 6.
*The Panthers will cruise through an all-Canada road trip between Oct. 16-20 with stops in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa.
*The longest road trip of the season will be a five-game trip beginning Feb. 2 and ending Feb. 10 with stops in Tampa, Toronto, Ottawa, Boston and Buffalo.
Between Feb 27 and March 29, in the middle of the playoff race, the Panthers will play 11 of 14 games at home including a stretch from March 6-29 of seven consecutive home games.
Martin said it’s imperative the Panthers improve on their road record, which was 12-23-0-6 in 2005-06 and 12-19-10 last season.
“I think over the last two years our home record has been pretty good (48-23-11),” Martin said. “What’s really killed us is our road record. I’m looking for us to be better this upcoming year.”
Home games Monday through Friday start at 7:30 p.m. Saturday home games will begin at 7:00 p.m., while Sunday games will faceoff at 5 p.m.
The Panthers will attempt to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999-2000 with a roster that includes several off-season acquisitions, including goalie Tomas Vokoun and forwards Brett McLean, Richard Zednik and Radek Dvorak. The Panthers also return a lineup that includes leading scorers Olli Jokinen, Nathan Horton and Jozef Stumpel. Jacques Martin Breaks Down the Schedule: CLICK HERE
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