After a lengthy wait, the 2013-14 NHL schedule was released on Friday, and Detroit Red Wings fans have a lot to look forward to. Only seven games on next season’s slate will start after 9:00 PM EST, a welcome relief for fans who hate missing games but work in the morning. The Red Wings also won’t find themselves traveling as much or as far as in years past, as they now join the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs in making up the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference. Counting the Red Wings, five of these teams made the playoffs last season, and had Detroit been in the Eastern Conference then they would have just barely snuck into the postseason (like they did in the Western Conference).
The obvious highlight of the schedule is the 2014 Winter Classic, which will see the Red Wings host the Maple Leafs on Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. It is the second Winter Classic game for Detroit (first time hosting) and the first for Toronto, and attendance is expected to break all previous records for such an event.
The Red Wings open the season at home on Oct. 2 against the Sabres, a team that features some familiar faces in former Wing Ville Leino and former Michigan State University standout (and brother of Red Wing Drew Miller) goaltender Ryan Miller. Another highlight of the schedule is a Nov. 4 away game against the Winnipeg Jets, which will be Detroit’s first visit there since 1996.
New Red Wings Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss will see their former teammates a few times, as the Wings face the Senators four times and the Panthers five times. Former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula (Lightning) will also face his former team five times.
The obvious downside to moving to the Eastern Conference is fewer meetings with longtime rivals, and that is reflected by only one home contest against the Chicago Blackhawks (Jan. 22). Considering how exciting and heated the playoff series between the two teams was last season, this is a game no one wants to miss. Finally, fans in Detroit will get their first chance to see No. 1 overall draft pick Nathan MacKinnon in action on Mar. 6, when the Colorado Avalanche visit Joe Louis Arena.
This will be an exciting year for Red Wings fans, as the Winter Classic and Sochi Olympics will be memorable parts of the season. The additions of Weiss and Alfredsson should help boost the Red Wings’ scoring, and the team seems poised for a successful start to their time in the Eastern Conference.