Atlantic Watch: Season Preview

Image courtesy of blueshirtbulletin.com

After a painful 3 1/2 months, the NHL will finally return to action this weekend.

That being said, the schedule is much shorter, which makes every game that much more important. If you want to make the playoffs, you most likely won’t be able to afford any losing streak of severe length. Since no games have taken place yet, let’s take a look at the Flyers’ schedule for the next week and recent news related to the team, as well as what the rest of the division has done lately.

For the Flyers, several stories have occurred this week that are worth noting before the start of the 2013 season.

One is the signing of defenseman Kurtis Foster. The 6-foot-5 right-handed blue liner spent time with the Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils, and Minnesota Wild last year before spending some time with Tappara of the SM-liiga earlier in 2012-2013. The defenseman signed a one-year contract worth $950,000.

Along with Foster the Flyers also brought Brian Boucher back to the organization. In a deal with the Carolina Hurricanes, the Orange and Black dealt Wheeling forward Luke Pither to the ‘Canes in exchange for the 36-year-old goaltender and Mark Alt, a prospect that current plays defense for the University of Minnesota.

In addition to the transactions, Claude Giroux was named the 19th captain in Flyers’ history in a move that was only surprising since it appeared to jump the gun by two days. He is the team’s seventh captain since the 2004-05 lockout.

As for coaching news, John Paddock, who has spent the last few seasons as the Flyers and Phantoms’ assistant General Manager, was named an assistant coach. Paddock has been working with the Flyers’ organization since the 2008-2009 campaign and helped the franchise during the 1989-1990 season as an assistant General Manager.

The schedule this year, for obvious reasons, will be different than previous seasons. Since there is about half as many games, Philly won’t play any Western Conference teams during the regular season, as they play each team from the Northeast and Southeast divisions three times. As for games in the division, the Flyers play the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils five times, while they see the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins four times.

The Flyers play the Rangers in Philly on January 24, in New York on the 29th and March 5, and conclude the season series with a pair of games at the Wells Fargo Center on March 26 and April 16.

They play the Devils in New Jersey for the first three games of the season series, which takes place on January 22, February 15, and March 13. On March 15, the teams travel to Philly to complete a home-and-home before they meet each other one more time on April 18 on South Broad.

The Flyers won’t see the Isles until February 18 at the Nassau Coliseum. Philly’s first game against the Islanders at home is on March 28. The teams meet twice in April, as they square off in New York on the ninth and play in Philadelphia on the 25th.

Philly opens the season with a contest against the Pens this Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. The next time the teams compete against one another is on February 20 in Pittsburgh. A pair of games between the Flyers and Pens occur in March, as they meet in Philly on the seventh and in Pittsburgh on the 24th.

After the Penguins’ affair on Saturday, which will take place at 3 PM and will be seen on NBC, the Flyers take part in another NBC game on Sunday when they visit the Buffalo Sabres for a 12:30 contest. Philly concludes the week with a game in New Jersey against the Devils, which will be aired on the NBC Sports Network.

New York Rangers

Image courtesy of nypost.com

The New York Rangers engaged in several transactions since Sunday. For one, they signed defenseman Michael Del Zotto to a two-year deal. Del Zotto, who is entering his fourth season as a Ranger, will earn $2.55 million in each year of his deal.

On the other end of the spectrum, New York is looking to get rid of Wade Redden. The Rangers are most likely either going to waive the 35-year-old blue liner, it’s just a matter of how and when. The team is attempting to send him home to avoid any injuries that could happen while he’s playing for the Connecticut Whale in the AHL, since a team cannot buy out an individual when they are injured. Redden hasn’t suited up for the Rangers since 2009-2010, as he has spent the last two seasons in the AHL. He has this season and next season left on his six-year, $39 million contract with New York.

The Rangers also placed a total of eight players on waivers yesterday. The group consisted of Sean Collins, Micheal Haley, Chad Kolarik, Kris Newbury, Logan Pyett, Brandon Segal, Mike Vernace, and Tommy Grant.

As for New York’s schedule this week, they open the 2013 season with a contest in Boston against the Bruins on Saturday at 7pm. On Sunday, the Rangers host the Penguins at 7 PM.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Image courtesy of talkhockey.ca

The Penguins will play the Rangers and Islanders five teams each in 2013. The Pens and Rangers will meet in New York on the 20th and 31st, Pittsburgh on March 16, and finish the season series with a home-and-home playing in New York on April 3rd and Pitt on April 5.

The Pens host the Isles on the 29th before they make a trip to Nassau Coliseum on February 5. The teams will meet three times in March, as they play in Pittsburgh on the 10t New York on the 22nd, and return to Pennsylvania on the 30th.

As for Penguins-Devils meetings, the teams will play three times in a nine-day span early in February. After the Pens host the Devils on February 2, the clubs engage in a home-and-home with a game at the Prudential Center on the ninth and a game at the CONSOL Energy Center eight days later.

As previously stated, the Pens’ first week of play will consist of road games in Philly on Saturday and at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

New Jersey Devils

Image courtesy of espn.go.com

The Devils will start the season without the impact of Adam Henrique. The young forward will miss the beginning of the 2013 season due to a thumb injury. Henrique aims to return in early February.

Mathieu Darche is in Devils’ camp this week, as the former Montreal Canadien is looking for work. The 36-year-old left winger had five goals and seven assists last season for Montreal.

As for the schedule, the other team the Devils play five times this year besides the Flyers is the Islanders. The clubs meet at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday and then at the Prudential Center on the 31st. In February, the Devils take a pair of trips to New York to compete against the Isles on the third and the 16th. The teams wrap up the season series on April 1 in New Jersey.

For this week, the Devils’ only two games are Saturday in New York and Tuesday at home against the Flyers.

New York Islanders

Image courtesy of nyhockeydaily.com

The biggest news surrounding the Islanders at the moment is defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky’s decision to stay in the KHL. After saying he wanted to stay in Europe last week, Visnovsky will miss the Islanders’ training camp due to ‘personal reasons.’

In response to Visnovsky’s absence, the Islanders claimed a pair of defenseman off of waivers. One of the d-men was Joe Finley, who the Isles snagged from the Buffalo Sabres. Finley played in five games for the Sabres last season, where he had 12 penalty minutes and minus-3 rating. The other blue liner was Thomas Hickey from the Los Angeles Kings. Picked fourth overall in the 2007 NHL Draft by the Kings, Hickey has yet to play a single NHL game.

Jon Landry, a 29-year-old defenseman who spent part of last season and his entire 2012-2013 season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, was invited to the Isles’ training camp this week. If he makes it, the Bowdoin Polar Bear will join Fred Ahern as the only Bowdoin graduates to reach the NHL.

In terms of the Islanders’ schedule, the team plays the Devils on Saturday before they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday at 1 PM.