The Wild will open the upcoming season Oct. 3 against Dustin Brown and the Los Angeles Kings, take part in the new Central Division and break for 18 days for the Winter Olympics in February.
The Wild will open the upcoming season Oct. 3 against the Los Angeles Kings, take part in the new Central Division and have 20 days off for the Winter Olympics in February.
These were just some of the highlights Friday when the NHL made it official that its players will take part in the Winter Olympics for the fifth time and the schedules for all 30 teams were announced.
The Wild opens the 82-game, 2013-14 campaign with four of the first five games at home and concludes with a three-game homestand.
It has no road trip longer than four games, but five of those. It also has three four-game homestands. The toughest stretch will be from Jan. 21-April 7 when the Wild plays 17 of 28 games on the road.
Some of the schedule features:
• Zach Parise returns to New Jersey for the first time March 20 and the Wild will be in Dallas on March 8 when the Stars retire former North Star Mike Modano’s No. 9.
• Former Wild center Matt Cullen returns to Minnesota for the first time with Nashville on Oct. 22, Devin Setoguchi returns for the first time with Winnipeg on Oct. 10 and Cal Clutterbuck and Pierre-Marc Bouchard return with the Islanders on Dec. 29.
• Former Pittsburgh Penguin Matt Cooke will host Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins on April 5.
As part of its new division, the Wild will leave the former Northwest Division and be grouped with the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets. Sixty-seven games will start at 7 p.m. or earlier, a sharp contrast when the Wild typically traveled to Northwest Division opponents three times a season and every Pacific Division team twice.
Every NHL team will play home and away against the other conference, meaning fans will get to see every team in the league.
In the West, the first three teams in each of the two divisions make the playoffs. There will then be two wild-card teams determined by the next two teams with the highest points.
The NHL will interrupt its season starting Feb. 9 and return to play Feb. 26 after the Olympics in Sochi. The Wild has no games scheduled from Feb. 7-26. The Wild should be well represented in the Olympics and could have as many eight players participate.
Parise, a captain contender, and Ryan Suter are shoo-ins to play for the United States, while Jason Pominville, born in Canada but with dual citizenship, is a roster contender.
Mikko Koivu could captain Finland, while Niklas Backstrom and Mikael Granlund are contenders. Nino Niederreiter is a shoo-in for Switzerland, while Jonas Brodin has already been invited to Sweden’s summer Olympic camp.
Parise and Suter won silver at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, while Koivu and Backstrom won bronze and silver respectively in 2010 and 2006 in Turin, Italy. Backstrom turns 36 on Feb. 13. With Pekka Rinne and Antti Niemi also options for Finland, Backstrom could be a long shot unless there are injuries.