The Minnesota Wild has released its 2011-2012 regular season schedule, and of course the immediate question is whether or not rookie head coach Mike Yeo can lead his team to an 82-win season. Of course, he and his team will have to take it one game at a time, and that first game will be a Saturday night showdown against the Columbus Blue Jackets and their new assistant coach, Todd Richards, on October 8.
Considering the Wild has never lost an Xcel Energy Center home opener, the question becomes whether or not they can rattle off another 81 consecutive W's.
There will be some challenges along the way. The defending Stanley Cup champions, the Boston Bruins, will visit St. Paul on Sunday, February 19. Boston's victims in the Cup Finals, the Vancouver Canucks, will make three stops in the State of Hockey on November 3, February 9 and March 19.
Assuming he makes a full recovery from a concussion, Sidney Crosby & Co. will be in the building when the Wild hosts the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 18.
Fans looking to make an NHL road trip this winter may want to make the trek up to Manitoba for the Wild's first ever regular season visit to Winnipeg on December 13 to face the team to be named later. Winnipeg will then come to Xcel Energy Center on February 16.
The Dallas Stars will be a fitting opponent on January 21 for Hockey Day Minnesota. Not only did the Stars once belong to our great state, but their roster currently consists of three native sons: Cloquet's Jamie Langenbrunner, Bloomington's Toby Petersen and Grand Rapids' Alex Goligoski.
Those might be the highlighted opponents at Xcel Energy Center this year, but there are plenty of desirables that dot the schedule. Chicago Blackhawks (Dec. 14 & Apr. 5) and Detroit Red Wings (Oct. 15 & Oct. 29) will each make a pair of visits to Minnesota.
The Wild will enjoy a six-game homestand in November, which will feature visits from Colorado, St. Louis, Nashville, Edmonton, Calgary and Tampa Bay. The month of March should also be a cozy month with nine home games to match a franchise high for most home games in a month.
Conversely, the month of January will be lonely around here with just three home games against San Jose, Dallas and Nashville, all of which will be one-game home stints. As for road trips, the Wild will make two five-game trips, both of which will include stops in all three California cities.