DETROIT – In 106 days, the Red Wings will begin their 89th NHL season against a very familiar foe.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Mike Babcock will match wits with the coach’s former team when they visit Joe Louis Arena for an intriguing matchup in the Red Wings' 2015-16 season opener on Oct. 9.
Babcock spent the past 10 seasons with the Detroit organization, helping guide them to the Stanley Cup championship in 2008. But last month, he decided to leave Detroit for a lucrative eight-year contract with the Maple Leafs. He has been replaced behind the Wings’ bench by Detroit native Jeff Blashill, who coached the club’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids for the past three seasons.
The Wings own a 280-275-93-5 (W-L-T-OTL) against their Original Six rivals from Toronto. But this year’s opening night match up is just the fourth time since 1977-78 that the two clubs will face-off in a season opener. Toronto holds a 4-3-3 all-time mark in Red Wings' season openers.
The first three months of the schedule is another grueling one for the Red Wings. They will play a total of 34 back-to-back games this season – 12 before Thanksgiving Day. They will play a total of 18 home games combined in November and December with nine contests each month. More than 56 percent of the home games will be played before January.
The home schedule also is comprised of 20 weekend games with nine Fridays, five Saturdays and six Sundays. Eleven of those games will be play in the first three months of the season.
As for the rest of the schedule, highlights of the home schedule include games on the night before Thanksgiving against Boston on Nov. 25, and on News Year’s Eve when the Wings will host Pittsburgh on Dec. 31.
The Nov. 25 game against the Bruins begins the longest home stand of the season for the Wings, who will also host Edmonton (Nov. 27), Florida (Nov. 29), Buffalo (Dec. 1), Arizona (Dec. 3) and Nashville (Dec. 5).
The schedule also features a showcase game in the league’s Stadium Series against Colorado. The Wings will travel to Denver where they will play the Avalanche in an outdoor game at Coors Field – the baseball home of the Colorado Rockies – on Feb. 27.
There is speculation that the rival franchises will plan an alumni game at Coors Field on Feb. 26. It’s expected that the rosters will include many of the former stars who battled in five unforgettable conference semifinals or finals between 1996 and 2002.
The Wings will face the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks twice late in the season. The Wings will host the Blackhawks in a nationally-televised Wednesday Night Rivalry game on March 2. Four days later the Wings will travel to the Windy City to face the Hawks at United Center on March 6.
Detroit is scheduled to play five Wednesday Night Rivalry games, four at Joe Louis Arena, including contests against Washington (Nov. 18), St. Louis (Jan. 20), and Philadelphia (April 6). The Wings’ lone rivalry night road game is at Tampa Bay on Feb. 3. All five rivalry games are scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.
The Wings will embark on their longest road trip of the season, a two-week odyssey that will take the team from the Upstate New York, through California and conclude in the dessert. The six-game trip will make stops in Buffalo (Jan. 2), New Jersey (Jan. 4), San Jose (Jan. 7), Anaheim (Jan. 10), Los Angeles (Jan. 11) and Arizona (Jan. 14).
The Wings get their first look at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn – the new home of the New York Islanders – on Jan. 25. Detroit returns to Brooklyn for a special 1 p.m. matinee on Presidents Day on Monday, Feb. 15.
The season will end with a significant Eastern Conference flavor as the Red Wings will face 10 different conference foes in 15 of the last 17 games. They’ll wrap-up the regular season on the road with games at Boston (April 7) and the New York Rangers (April 9).