Detroit Red Wings will play just 7 other teams 8 times each in upcoming 2021 NHL season
Get ready for a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. And the Chicago Blackhawks.
The NHL and NHL Players Association officially agreed a 56-game season on Sunday, beginning January 13th and ending May 8th. The Wings, one of seven teams that were not part of the 2020 playoff bubble, can start the training camp on New Year's Eve - a day on which they traditionally play at home.
Most Wings players have skated on the practice facility at Little Caesars Arena since ice was laid on the last weekend in November. Jeff Blashill and selected members of his coaching staff have also returned to their offices at LCA from home.
The 2021 NHL season begins January 13th. The Wings have not played since their home loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on March 10, 2020.
COVID-19 forced the NHL to postpone the start of the 2020-21 season, and travel restrictions between the US and Canada have required a realignment of the geographical division. To minimize travel, the teams only play against division opponents. In the case of the Wings, this means eight games each in the Central Division against the Carolina Hurricanes, Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and Lightning.
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The East Division consists of the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals. The west consists of the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings, Las Vegas Golden Knights, San Jose Sharks, and St. Louis Blues.
The North Division will consist of seven Canadian teams: the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets. The Canadian teams play against each other nine or ten times.
Teams will play at home, unlike the bubble scenarios used for the 2020 Playoffs, which saw Eastern Conference teams in Toronto and Western Conference teams in Edmonton.
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There is a contingency plan to use what the NHL calls “neutral locations” if a team cannot play at home due to the pandemic.
At least initially, there won't be any fans in the stands.
The four best teams in each division qualify for the playoffs, which have the usual best-of-seven, four-round format. The playoffs are expected to close in mid-July, about a month later than usual. The hope is to start the 2021-22 season as usual in early October.
The start of training camp on December 31st would give the Wings two weeks to prepare for their first game since March 10th, when the Hurricanes secured a 17-49-5 end for the 2019-20 season through a loss . There will be no exhibition games.
The Wings will bring in several new players after General Manager Steve Yzerman used the off-season to bring Bobby Ryan and Vladislav Namestnikov, defenders Marc Staal, Jon Merrill and Troy Stecher, and goalkeeper Thomas Greiss forward.
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more about the Detroit Red Wings and subscribe to our Red Wings newsletter. Her book The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Triumph Books. Personalized copies are available via email.
This article originally appeared in Detroit Free Press: Detroit Red Wings to play against 7 other teams 8 times each during the NHL season
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