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Well, the countdown has officially begun. Yesterday, we learned we'd have to wait 114 days before the Buffalo Sabres open the 2016-17 season on home ice against the Montreal Canadiens. Today, with full schedules being released around the League, we learned everything that will come after.
You can check out the full schedule, but allow us to delve into some of the highlights.
CLICK HERE FOR THE 2016-17 SEASON INFOGRAPHIC
HELLO, THEN GOODBYE
The Sabres get to open their season against the Canadiens at First Niagara Center, but the majority of their October will be spent on the road. They'll make their Western Canada road trip beginning in Edmonton on Oct. 16 and concluding in Vancouver on Oct. 20 (with a game in Calgary in-between) and then head for a game in Philadelphia on Oct. 25 before finally returning home.
At the very least, the Sabres will be avoiding some cold weather. They end their month with a road trip from Winnipeg to Minnesota, a trip they took in January last season in negative temperatures. Both of those cities should be a bit warmer in October.
TESTS AT HOME
For as much time as the Sabres will spend on the road in October, the schedule levels out with 10 home games as opposed to three road games from Nov. 17 through Dec. 16. That stretch becomes even more fun when looking at the opponents who will be coming to town: Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary, Detroit, both New York teams, Boston, Washington, Edmonton and Los Angeles.
It will be a telling stretch for the Sabres early in the season – seven of those teams made the playoffs in 2015-16 and the three that didn’t either just missed (Boston) or feature Johnny Gaudreau and Connor McDavid.
One of the most fun days of last season came on Thursday, Nov. 12, when the Sabres and Bills both won their respective games over the Florida Panthers and New York Jets on the same night. Fans got to celebrate two wins, and #WonBuffalo was born.
This year, the Bills and Sabres play on the same day three times: Oct. 16 (Bills host San Francisco at 1 p.m., Sabres at Edmonton at 7 p.m.), Oct. 30 (Bills host New England at 1 p.m., Sabres at Winnipeg at 3 p.m.) and Nov. 7 (Bills at Seattle at 8:30 p.m., Sabres at Boston at 7 p.m.).
If you really want to have a One Buffalo weekend, circle Oct. 29 and 30 on your calendar. That's the weekend you can watch both the Sabres and Bills play at home, with the Sabres hosting Florida on Saturday and the Bills hosting New England on Sunday.
RENEWING THE RIVALRY
There's always a unique energy surrounding the games when the Maple Leafs come to town, particularly for the first time in a season. That could be especially true this season, as Buffalo's game against Toronto at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 should also mark the first professional matchup between Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews.
Matthews is expected to be taken by the Maple Leafs with the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft on Friday. He and Eichel are two of the most talented young players in the League, both American, and they play less than two hours apart. The intrigue is unavoidable, and should make for a fun night at First Niagara Center.
BEATING THE BEST
The Sabres will get their first crack at the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins on a Saturday night at home, at 7 p.m. on Nov. 19. If you miss that game, have no fear – they host the Penguins again at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21.
That second meeting comes on the tail end of a daunting stretch of five games in eight days: three in California, one in Detroit and then at home against Pittsburgh the next day.
The Sabres' home game against the reigning Western Conference Champion San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, Feb. 7, is also enticing, especially when you consider the two teams' history. Buffalo is currently on a franchise-best 10-game point streak against San Jose, having gone 9-0-1 in that stretch.
The Sabres will play 19 back-to-back sets this season, up from the 15 they played in 2015-16. Buffalo went 6-9-0 in the first games of back-to-back sets last season and 6-7-2 in the second games.
AFTERNOONS WITH THE SABRES
While it's not quite the 11 they played last season, the Sabres will still play eight afternoon games this season, six of which will be played at First Niagara Center: Saturday, Oct. 29 against Florida (1 p.m.), Saturday, Dec. 3 against Boston (1 p.m.), Saturday, Jan. 7 against Winnipeg (1 p.m.), Monday, Jan. 16 against Dallas (1 p.m.), Saturday, Feb. 18 against St. Louis (1 p.m.) and Sunday, April 3 against the Islanders (3 p.m.).
The Sabres went 6-3-2 in afternoon games last season.
THE CLOSING STRETCH
The month of February April is going to be extremely important for the Sabres if they find themselves vying for one of the top three seeds in the Atlantic Division. They play six of their last eight games against division rivals, including four straight to close out the season (home games against Toronto and Montreal followed by a road trip through Florida and Tampa Bay).