NHL releases schedule, Rangers host Islanders on Oct. 13


Matt Cullen, Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers will see plenty of the Penguins facing the defending Stanley Cup champs five times including a home-and-home along with big match-ups at the end of March and the final game of the season.

The NHL released its full schedule for 2016-17. The season begins on October 12 with the usual four games. All of which are rivalry based.

Featuring two Canadian match-ups, the new look Maple Leafs who will feature expected first overall pick Auston Matthews and new goalie Frederik Andersen, visit the Senators. The Oilers will debut in their new arena against bitter Alberta rival Calgary. Both teams could have new additions to the lineup. Edmonton picks fourth and the Flames select sixth in Friday’s NHL Draft at Buffalo.

The two American games are just as intriguing. The Blackhawks will host the Blues as they renew their heated rivalry. The question is who might be on Chicago’s roster. Rumored to be interested in acquiring Evgeni Malkin from the Penguins, the Hawks could have a very different look. Meanwhile, the Blues could also have changes. They are exploring trade options on defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who only is signed for one more year before he can test the market in a expansion year. St. Louis will try to re-sign captain David Backes on July 1.

Of course, what would Opening Night be without an annual Californian clash between the Sharks and Kings. Indeed, Los Angeles will visit San Jose, who made its first Stanley Cup Finals appearance in their 25-year history. While the Sharks could have a similar look featuring Martin Jones, Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, the Kings roster could change. Much depends on if they have enough room to re-sign unrestricted free agent Milan Lucic. It’s highly unlikely with over $65 million committed and key Group II’s Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson due for raises.

In case you’re wondering, the Rangers won’t have to watch another team raise a Stanley Cup banner. This time, it’ll be Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals who will visit Sidney Crosby and the Penguins on October 13. If the Pens do trade Malkin, the defending champs will have a very different look.

The Rangers also open up on Oct. 13 when they host the arch rival Islanders at MSG. The two teams also see each other twice during preseason. The exhibition schedule starts a bit later due to the World Cup of Hockey. If there is a negative to the tournament, that’s it. It means late camps and a busy season. Six of the Rangers’ nine games in October are at home. The Sharks come in Oct. 17 followed by the Red Wings on 10/19. The Coyotes, Bruins and Lightning are the other three home games with the one against Tampa wrapping up the month on All Hallow’s Eve.

Somewhat curiously, they’ll play St. Louis twice in two-plus weeks including a Oct. 15 visit and the Blues then returning at MSG on November 1. In another oddity, Western teams will be the theme for the first part of November. The Rangers host the Oilers 11/3 and then visit Edmonton 11/13. They also will see the Canucks twice withing a week including at home on Nov. 8 followed by a 11/15 visit to Vancouver concluding a three games in four Western Canadian trip followed by a stop at Columbus 11/18.

Unlike last season when they didn’t see Pittsburgh until the final three months, the Rangers and Pens will have a home-and-home with Pittsburgh visiting The Garden 11/21 and the Blueshirts visiting CONSOL Energy Center on Turkey Eve, 11/23. On Black Friday, it’ll be Rangers and Flyers again in Philadelphia at 1 PM on NBC. The month concludes with home dates against the Senators and Hurricanes.

December is highlighted by two games against the Devils. New Jersey visits MSG on Dec. 11 and Dec. 18. Each game is on a Sunday night going up against the NFL late game on NBC. Why not just have them play at 5 PM instead? The Jets and Giants rarely play the late afternoon game. Also in December, the Rangers visit the Sabres to start the month on 12/1 where they could see both Jack Eichel and Jimmy Vesey, who they traded for parting with a third round pick to Nashville. The first visit to Barclays Center is Dec. 6. So, you get your second Rangers vs Islanders installment.

In another oddity, the Blackhawks and Rangers will face each other twice over a four-day span. The classic Original Sixes first will meet in Chicago on 12/9. Then the Hawks come in Dec. 13 following the Devils. There is a game on my birthday prior to the first meeting against the Hawks. It’s at Winnipeg Dec. 8. The Jets will have already toured the city on Nov. 6. The Rangers visit the Penguins again on Dec. 20. At least they’ll have played three times before 2017. The month concludes with the Blueshirts at Arizona on 12/29 and in Colorado on New Year’s Eve with a start time of 8 PM. Let’s put it this way. If you have plans later and they lose, you’ll have a good reason to drink. Just do it safely. 😛

January is a bit lighter. After a couple of days off to recover from a 2016 hangover, the Sabres are in on Jan. 3 followed by a trip to the City of Brotherly Love for a back-to-back. Following a visit at Columbus 1/7, the Rangers get a five day holiday break. That will give us time to relax. Don’t spend it on Twitter arguing. Finally, they return to action on Jan. 13 to see those new look Maple Leafs on Broadway. That should be fun. Then the following night is at the House of Horrors in Montreal. Ah. The annual Henrik Lundqvist night off. He really needs more nights off or the Rangers might not survive. God knows what the roster will look like. 😮

If you prefer entertaining high scoring games, the Stars pay a visit to MSG Jan. 17. Lundqvist’s future team Dallas is about as fun an opponent as there is. Featuring two of the game’s best players in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin along with Jason Spezza and John Klingberg, it should be a treat. Following a three games in four days at Detroit and home to the conquering Kings and hated Flyers, the Rangers get another four days off before concluding the month hosting Columbus.

February is highlighted by two big home matches against the Ovechkin Caps who visit on 2/19 and 2/28 to finish the month. The first one is one of those annoying 12:30 NBC starts on a Sunday. Good god. Why? The Canadiens also are in town Feb. 21. The Rangers visit the Devils 2/25 for their third meeting. They will also visit Brooklyn and those Islanders nine days prior on Feb. 16 which also is their third meeting. The Rangers will also see some Western teams including Calgary, Anaheim, Yuckville Nashville and Colorado between 2/5-11 all at the World’s Most Famous Arena. They’ll also face the Jackets twice more with a home date Feb. 26 at a more kind 5 PM Sunday start. They will visit Columbus earlier on Feb. 13. I think that’s at least four games against them already.

The early part of March is mostly Atlantic month with at Boston, home for the Habs, at the Bolts, Cats, Candy Canes and Winged Wheel followed by the Bolts and Cats visiting between 3/2-17. A back-to-back against the Islanders on 3/21 and visit to the Devils are sandwiched between Western opponents featuring the Wild, Kings, Ducks and Sharks all on the road with the Western California trip between Mar. 25-28. The month concludes with the Pens on Mar. 31.

The final four games of the season are in April. The Flyers visit 4/2. The Rangers get two days off before a 4/5 visit at Team Ovechkin. Then two straight days off before a weekend free fall at the Sens Apr. 8 and those Crosby/HBK Pens at MSG on 4/9. Why is the final game at 7 PM? Just another reason to hate this league.

Breaking down the Ranger schedule further:

-16 back-to-backs including a hectic 5 in March

-30 divisional games

-vs Devils 4 times 12/11 12/18 2/25 3/21

-vs Islanders 4 times 10/13 12/6 2/16 3/22

-vs Penguins 5 times 11/21-23 12/20 3/31 4/9

-vs Flyers 4 times 11/25 1/4 1/25  4/2

-vs Capitals 4 times 10/22 2/19 2/28 4/5

-vs Blue Jackets 5 times 11/18 1/7 1/31 2/13 2/26

-vs Hurricanes 4 times 10/28 11/29 12/3 3/9

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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