With the NHL’s participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia finally ensured Friday, the league was free to release its full 2013-14 regular-season schedule, complete with the names of its four realigned divisions.
The Pittsburgh Penguins found out not only where and when they would be playing all 82 games, but also that their new eight-team grouping would be called the Metropolitan Division. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reportedly pushed for the incongruous name, in part because dubbing it the Eastern Division would be confusing when placed alongside the Eastern Conference.
Furthermore, none of the teams in the former Atlantic Division (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Rangers, Islanders) will be in the new Atlantic (Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Florida, Buffalo, Toronto). As previously announced, refugees from the Central (Columbus) and Southeast (Washington, Carolina) will join the former Atlantic teams in the Metropolitan.
Nevertheless, the changes to the scheduling matrix are more important than the new division monikers. In stark contrast to the all-intraconference 2013 slate, next season will feature two matchups against each team from the opposite conference, in addition to 30 within the division and 24 vs. other intraconference opponents.
For the next three seasons, the top three teams in each division will automatically qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Wild-card postseason berths will be handed out to the two teams in each conference with the best non-qualifying point totals.
The Penguins will open 2013-14 with a three-game homestand, starting when the Devils come to Consol Energy Center on Thursday, Oct. 3. Pittsburgh’s first game against a Western Conference foe since 2012 will occur Oct. 15, when the Pens host Edmonton.
The Flyers and Penguins will hook up five times, with the first meeting in Philadelphia on Oct. 17 and the final in Pittsburgh on Apr. 12. The Pens will play their first division games against Columbus in a weekend home-and-home Nov. 1-2. The longest homestand of the season is four games (Mar. 22-27), part of a closing stretch that features 12 of the final 18 games in Pittsburgh.
The longest road trip comes from Dec. 23-31, with Ottawa, Carolina, Columbus and New Jersey serving as stops on the holiday tour. A three-game western Canada swing follows in early January, with a pair of West Coast trips scheduled for February and March. The Olympic break will be Feb. 9-25, and the Penguins will face the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks at Soldier Field on Mar. 1.
For more information on the schedule, visit the Penguins’ official website.