The Nashville Predators 20th anniversary season and defense of their Western Conference title will commence on Thursday, Oct. 5 versus the Boston Bruins.
The full 2017-18 regular-season schedules for the now 31 NHL clubs were revealed on Tuesday afternoon by the NHL, and below we have the Preds' highlights you need to know.
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You Want a Rematch?
The wait on a Stanley Cup Final rematch is nearly nonexistent for the Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins as Nashville will travel to PPG Paints Arena for just their second game of the regular season on Saturday, Oct. 7.
Nashville has opened the regular season at home for the previous three seasons and closed it out on the road - each year in the Peter Laviolette era - but will reverse that pattern in 2017-18, opening on the road against the Boston Bruins on Thursday, Oct. 5 and concluding at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday, April 7 versus the Columbus Blue Jackets.
After opening the campaign in Boston, Nashville will be seeking revenge in Pittsburgh for their loss in the Stanley Cup Final, when they face the Penguins 118 days removed from Game 6.
Are You New Here?
The 31st club in the NHL, the Vegas Golden Knights, will play a three-game season series with the Predators during their inaugural season. Vegas will make two trips to Music City with their first on Friday, Dec. 8 slated to be former-Preds forward James Neal's initial return to Nashville.
The Predators will skate at T-Mobile Arena for the first time on Tuesday, Jan. 2, prior to Vegas returning to Nashville two weeks later on Jan. 16.
Rivals Ratcheted Up:
Nashville sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks and taking out the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks in six games apiece on their way to winning the West in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs only helped to take the rivalries up a few more notches in their intensity.
The Predators have ended the Ducks' season in each of the last two years, including forcing Anaheim to watch Nashville receive the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl in Game 6 of the conference final.
The Ducks will make two trips to Bridgestone Arena in 2017-18, the first on Saturday, Dec. 2 and the second on Thursday, March 8. The Preds will face the Ducks for the first time during the club's first extended road trip of the campaign - a four-game trip to San Jose (Nov. 1), Anaheim (Nov. 3), Los Angeles (Nov. 4) and Columbus (Nov. 7).
St. Louis will follow up their first-ever postseason meeting with Nashville when the clubs face off for the first of four times in a tilt at TD Ameritrade Center (formerly Scottrade Center) on Friday, Nov. 24.
Chicago and Nashville will clash four times during the regular season; the first coming on Saturday, Oct. 14 at United Center.
A bond was formed between the Sabres and Predators when Hockey Hall-of-Famer and former Nashville Assistant Coach Phil Housley made the move behind Buffalo's bench to become their head coach on June 15.
A dynamic defenseman during his playing career, Housley has promised to bring an offensive charge to the Sabres' defensive corps - an area he oversaw in Nashville as well. Talented Sabres forward Jack Eichel may be used to getting most of the headlines, but it will be Housley who should get a rousing cheer from Preds fans when he returns to Smashville on Saturday, March 31.
Nashville will have their first crack at their former assistant coach on Monday, March 19 in Buffalo.
The division-heavy, regular-season schedule used for the past several years returns in 2017-18, meaning Nashville will face teams within their division in roughly 32 percent of their games. The addition of a 15th team in the Western Conference means divisional series will find more balance this year, however, with Nashville playing Minnesota and Winnipeg five times, but the other four Central teams on four occasions.
The Preds will also face other West teams in three-game season series and teams from the Eastern Conference twice (once at home and once away).
Competition in the Central appears to have intensified during the offseason with the Dallas Stars adding Ben Bishop and the Winnipeg Jets seeing Patrick Laine return from his 36-goal season as an 18-year-old rookie. And that's just mentioning two of the teams that didn't qualify for the playoffs in 2016-17, but who believe they have a strong bid in the upcoming season.
The Predators face three divisional rivals within the first couple weeks of the season. On the contrary, gone are the seasons with a string of division games to close out the regular season; Nashville will end the 2017-18 campaign with five consecutive games versus Eastern Conference foes. Here's how the rest of the Central matchups shake out (all times are CT):
- @Chicago - Saturday, Oct. 14 at 7:30 p.m.
- @Chicago - Friday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m.
- Chicago - Tuesday, Nov. 28 at 7 p.m.
- Chicago - Tuesday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m.
- Colorado - Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.
- Colorado - Saturday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m.
- @Colorado - Sunday, March 4 at 2 p.m.
- @Colorado - Friday, March 16 at 8 p.m.
- Dallas - Thursday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.
- @Dallas - Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m.
- @Dallas - Saturday, Dec. 23 at 7 p.m.
- Dallas - Tuesday, March 6 at 7 p.m.
Minnesota Wild: Five Games (two home, three away)
- @Minnesota - Thursday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.
- @Minnesota - Friday, Dec. 29 at 7 p.m.
- Minnesota - Saturday, Dec. 30 at 7 p.m.
- @Minnesota - Saturday, March 24 at 7 p.m.
- Minnesota - Tuesday, March 27 at 7 p.m.
St. Louis Blues:
- @St. Louis - Friday, Nov. 24 at 7 p.m.
- @St. Louis - Wednesday, Dec. 27 at 7 p.m.
- St. Louis - Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.
- St. Louis - Sunday, Feb. 25 at 5 p.m.
Winnipeg Jets: Five Games (three home, two away)
- Winnipeg - Monday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m.
- Winnipeg - Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m.
- @Winnipeg - Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.
- Winnipeg - Tuesday, March 13 at 7 p.m.
- @Winnipeg - Sunday, March 25 at 6 p.m.
At Home or on the Road:
Smashville will be the place to be in November, January and February as Bridgestone Arena holds home stands of four, five (the longest of the season) and four games, respectively, in those months. All told, the Preds will be at home for 21 games in the three months, including visits from Eastern Conference juggernauts Pittsburgh (Nov. 11), Washington (Nov. 14) and Montreal (Nov. 22) in November.
January's five-game home stand comes with a bit of asterisk as the club will take its second annual mandatory five-day break between games one and two of the five. Nashville hosts Edmonton on Tuesday, Jan. 9 and is then off from Jan. 10 to Jan. 15 until returning to Bridgestone Arena for a visit from the Golden Knights.
As for longest travel, after journeying to California twice and Western Canada once in 2016-17, the inverse will occur in 2017-18. Nashville's lone trip out to California comes in the first week of November when they take on the Sharks (Nov. 1), Ducks (Nov. 3), Kings (Nov. 4) and then stop in Columbus (Nov. 7) on their way back home.
The Predators' second excursion to Western Canada represents the third of three four-game road trips on the season when they stop in Winnipeg (Feb. 27), Edmonton (March 1), Vancouver (March 2) and Colorado (March 4). The other extended trip is to the northeast with dates in New York (Feb. 5 versus Islanders), Toronto (Feb. 7), Ottawa (Feb. 8) and Montreal (Feb. 10).