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Senators roll into Motor City to begin 2011-12 slate

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
After opening their 2011-12 season with a pair of road games, Jason Spezza and the Senators get started at Scotiabank Place on Oct. 11 against the Minnesota Wild. The 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend comes to Ottawa for the first time on Jan. 28-29  (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

Paul MacLean won't have to wait long to renew acquaintances with some old friends.

The new Ottawa Senators head coach spent the last six seasons as an assistant to Mike Babcock with the Detroit Red Wings. And the Motor City is where he'll get his official welcome to life as a bench boss in the National Hockey League.

MacLean and the Senators will open the 2011-12 season on Oct. 7 in Detroit against the Red Wings, it was revealed today as the NHL released its complete schedule for the coming campaign. For the Senators, the slate features a visit to Winnipeg — one of MacLean's old haunts as a player — for the first time in more than 15 years and the inaugural appearance of NHL all-star weekend in the nation's capital. The 2012 mid-season classic is set for Jan. 28-29 at Scotiabank Place.

After opening the season with back-to-back road matchups with the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs (on Oct. 8), the Senators play the home opener of their 20th anniversary season on Oct. 11 against the Minnesota Wild. The game comes almost two decades to the day (Oct. 8, 1992) since the modern Senators marked their NHL debut by dumping the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Montreal Canadiens 5-3 at the Ottawa Civic Centre.

The game against the Wild is one of eight Tuesday night matchups at Scotiabank Place in 2010-11, but the bulk of the Senators' home schedule — 26 games — falls in the latter half of the week. That total includes eight Thursdays, five Fridays, nine Saturdays and four Sundays. Rounding out the home slate are three Monday dates and four on Wednesdays.

Among the schedule highlights for 2011-12:

— For the first time since 1995-96, Senators fans will get the chance to see a sixth Canadian team visit the capital. The new Winnipeg franchise is slated to face off with the Sens on Oct. 20, marking the first time a team from the Manitoba capital has played an NHL game in Ottawa since Nov. 22, 1995, when the old Jets took home a 3-1 victory at the Civic Centre. Winnipeg also plays in Ottawa on Jan. 16 and the Senators visit the MTS Centre twice.

— The Stanley Cup-champion Boston Bruins make three trips to Ottawa this season, as do the rest of the Senators' Northeast Division rivals (Montreal, Toronto and Buffalo). The Bs first appearance is set for Dec. 14. Meanwhile, the Western Conference champs, the Vancouver Canucks, pay their lone visit to Scotiabank Place on Dec. 10.

— Ottawa's longest homestand is six games, from Feb. 3-11. On the flip side, there are two six-game road stretches, from Nov. 11-25 and Jan. 17-31.

— The Senators' busiest home months are December (nine games), followed by February (8) and March (7). They'll play 10 road games in January and eight in November.

Hockey Day in Canada returns to Scotiabank Place on Feb. 11, with the Edmonton Oilers the visitors for a 2 p.m. matinee affair. The two teams celebrated the occasion in the Alberta capital last season.

For fans planning to attend multiple games, the 2011-12 schedule offers a perfect balance — 20 games at Scotiabank Place in the first half of the season and 21 games in the second half. And for the first time, single-game tickets for every home contest will be available before opening night. They'll go on sale on Sept. 9, with three and five-game packs, pre-season tickets, opening night and group sales commencing on Aug. 12.

Full, half-season and Flex 40 packages are on sale now, along with mini-plans (Flex 20 and 10-game set-seat plans). Pricing details for single-game tickets, group sales and game packs will be announced in August.

Also to be unveiled at a later date is the Senators' TV schedule for the coming season.

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