|Mike Fisher and the Senators will find themselves playing seven Friday home games during the 2010-11 season, a bit of a change from seasons gone by (Getty Images).
Opening night on a Friday, it might be said, speaks volumes about the kind of schedule the Ottawa Senators will face in the season ahead.
When the puck drops to begin the team's 2010-11 campaign, the Senators will do it at Scotiabank Place on a Friday, Oct. 8. Only this season, it'll be anything but a rare opportunity to round out your work week with an evening of Senators hockey.
Among the highlights of the Sens' schedule released earlier today is the presence of seven Friday night home games. Team president Cyril Leeder said it's one of the byproducts of a change in the way the National Hockey League put its schedule together.
"We used to give them so many (preferred) dates and they picked the schedule from those dates," said Leeder. "Now we have to give them the entire calender (of building events) and they lay the schedule out from the available dates.
"So we have more non-traditional (home) dates, like Fridays and a few more Mondays. But the consequence is you get a better balance. You don't have as many games jammed into a single period of time."
Indeed, this is a schedule better designed to help the Senators with ticket sales. A year ago, 27 of the 41 dates at Scotiabank Place were in the books by Dec. 31. This season, the home split is much more equitable, with 22 dates in the first half of the season and 19 in the back end. Three of Ottawa's final four games of 2010-11 will be played at Scotiabank Place.
"That, in our view, was the most difficult part of selling tickets last year, just the way the schedule was laid out," said Leeder. "The imbalance of home games, the long runs — six home games in 10 days early in the year — were a problem. We don't have that this year.
"We're very happy with the schedule. The best thing about it is the balance. We've got a good balance of home and away games. Our opponents are spread out as well, which we asked for as well, to try to get Montreal every couple of months and Toronto every couple of months. It's a good schedule from a fan's perspective. I think they're going to like it."
Also helping the ticket cause is that the schedule is being released three weeks earlier than in previous seasons. Already, Leeder said, the Senators are enjoying a strong off-season in that area.
"We're very happy with the schedule. The best thing about it is the balance. We've got a good balance of home and away games. Our opponents are spread out as well, which we asked for as well, to try to get Montreal every couple of months and Toronto every couple of months. It's a good schedule from a fan's perspective. I think they're going to like it." - Cyril Leeder
"It's been our best renewal we've ever had," he said. "The schedule (coming out) certainly helps a little bit. We've got a lot of package holders on 10-, 20- and 30-game plans, so they have to wait until there's a schedule to pick their games."
Among the highlights of the 82-game schedule released today:
— Perhaps the most hotly-anticipated game of the season comes Dec. 2, when the San Jose Sharks visit Scotiabank Place. It'll be the first appearance by Dany Heatley in a visitors jersey since his contentious departure from Ottawa last fall. "I think the fans will be circling that one on our schedule," said Leeder. "That'll be a popular game ... Everybody will be looking forward to that one."
— There are only nine Saturday home games this season, but six of them are against Northeast Division rivals. That includes a New Year's Day matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs, a game that will be televised nationally by CBC's Hockey Night in Canada
following the annual outdoor Winter Classic between the Washington Capitals and Penguins at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
— In addition to the New Year's game, the Senators will play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Boxing Day in a matchup of teams that faced off in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring. "Christmas is good for us this year," said Leeder.
— The daily breakdown of home games is as follows: Monday, 3; Tuesday, 8; Wednesday, 4; Thursday, 8; Friday, 7; Saturday, 9, and Sunday, 2.