The Panthers will open up with two games on the road (at the New York Islanders on October 8th and at the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 11th) before finally opening their home portion of the 2011-12 season against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It's the second straight year that the two teams will meet in the Cats home opener. FULL SCHEDULEOFFICIAL RELEASE
Remember last year's opener? Florida scored early and often with four goals in the opening period on their way to a 6-0 shutout victory. Would be nice for a follow up to kick off the We See Red home opener.
At first glance of the schedule, there's a lot of interesting things to take in. First off is the time change for Saturday night contests. In years past games have started at 7:00pm. This year game start will be 7:30pm. Wondering what effect it will have (if any).
Another interesting look is that this schedule seems to be more balanced than in years past. The most games in a row either at home or on the road is just four games. In year's past the team has played on the road or at home for five, six, even seven games at a time. A more balanced schedule should keep the team on their toes but not also make them traveling vagabonds. There will be four different four-game home stands as well as two different four-game road trips.
The schedule makers made sure that the Panthers played host during the holidays which is great because that's when some of the biggest crowds are on hand at the BankAtlantic Center. Florida will host the Penguns (Nov. 19), Devils (Nov. 21), Rangers (Nov. 23) and Lightning (Nov. 25) during Thanksgiving and then will host the Maple Leafs (Dec. 27), Rangers (Dec. 30) and Canadiens (Dec. 31) around the Christmas/New Years Eve time.
Florida will play in 14 sets of back to back games this year but only play five of them in the first three months of the season. That means a lot of them in the second half of the season. A lot of them will be played in the month of March where they will play in four different back-to-back situations.
One final interesting point, at least on our behalf is the amount of weekend games, especially on Sunday. The Cats are home for 22 games on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Eight of them, which has to be the most in a long time, will be played on Sunday. It's great to see in that families can come out thanks to an early start time (5:00pm) and enjoy the game.