Ducks will have to overcome nightmare schedule to compete

With the 2011-12 season rapidly approaching, the gang at PHT decided to take a look at all 30 NHL teams’ schedules. Each team’s highs and lows will be studied in detail to give you an idea of what the future might hold for each squad.

Note: Mileage figures via On the Forecheck’s “Super Schedule.”

Anaheim Ducks schedule analysis

Total mileage: 50,296 (third most miles in NHL and second most in the Pacific Division)

Back-to-back games: 13

Toughest stretches

Where to start? The Ducks have a 7-game road trip that runs between October 25 and November 5—a trip that eventually ends up in the Northeast. A couple of weeks later, they have an eight game stretch where they’ll play seven games on the road. While both sound difficult on their own, the Ducks have an even tougher stretch to deal with in February. The eight game road trip that runs from February 11 to February 23 has the potential to destroy a season. The start in Detroit, travel to the Northeast for a couple of games, before flying south to play a few Southeast Division teams.

Oh yeah, they also start the season in Europe for a pair of games against Eastern Conference opponents.

As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, they finish with a three games on the road. If the Ducks are battling for a playoff spot, three games on the road to finish the season could be a huge deal.

Easiest periods

Believe it or not, there are a couple of easier stretches for Anaheim. Starting on November 17, they’ll play eight out of nine games at the Honda Center. The competition may be tough, but the Ducks have proven over the last few years to be a much better team at home than they’ve been on the road.

They also get a six-game homestand starting on December 29 and running through January 10. Even though they’ll have to deal with the Sharks and Canucks during the homestand, they’ll also get to see the Avalanche, Islanders, Blue Jackets, and Stars. There’s no question they’ll need to have a strong homestand and collect the points while they can. For good measure, they have a seven game stretch in March when they never have to leave California.

Overall outlook

The Ducks are one of only three teams who will be forced to travel over 50,000 miles this season. Their travel is the third toughest in the NHL and only trails I-5 rival Los Angeles for toughest travel in the Pacific Division.

By the time they get back from their 8-game road trip in February, they should have a idea if the playoffs are a realistic possibility. Over the course of the season, they’ll have long road trips scattered around long homestands. They’ll need to maintain their focus—whether it’s during extended homestands or long road trips if they want to collect enough points to make the playoffs.

Video: This Kane-to-Panarin goal is all sorts of ridiculous

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When people were arguing against Artemi Panarin‘s Calder case, they often discounted his work because of Patrick Kane‘s brilliance (at least when they weren’t focusing on age questions).

It always felt a little unfair to Panarin.

Do we blame a great wide receiver playing with an adept quarterback? Sure, it’s an interesting discussion to have, but it seems fairly clear that there’s a symbiotic relationship between Panarin and Kane.

One could see that plainly in a 1-0 goal for the Chicago Blackhawks against the Pittsburgh Penguins that … admittedly was driven by Kane’s almost audacious creativity and skill.

But still, Panarin has 26 goals this season because he’s really good, too. This season has been a nice showcase for such thoughts, and a reminder that – like most great combinations – they make each other better.

(Seriously though, Kane was out of his mind there.)

‘Old Time Hockey’ video game takes a bit of an early beating from reviewers

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From the sound of things, “Old Time Hockey” is a video game with a lot of heart, but maybe not the skills to make it to the big time.

While “NHL 17” is pumped out by publishing giant EA Sports, this title is very much an independent labor of love by a company called V7 Entertainment. Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy provided a great interview with the developers here. It’s worth noting that the game reminds one of 8-bit titles in another way: lacking an NHL license, these teams are instead fictional. This isn’t necessarily a drawback as much as it provides the title with its own unique “flavor.”

It’s hard not to get behind a scrappy development, especially in an age where sports video game options are so scarce. Some leagues barely see any licensed games any longer (see: the MLB, which feels woefully misrepresented these days), and the arcade-style that “Blades of Steel” and other old-school games popularized is even tougher to come by.

Combine these factors with an aesthetic inspired by “Slap Shot” and “Old Time Hockey” seems like it could really scratch an itch … except, it sounds like the puck missed the net.

So far, reviews are pretty mixed for the title, which is currently on PC and Playstation 4 (with planned releases on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch).

While there are a few good reviews here and there, the general reception is of disappointment.

A Sporting News review states that “the promising premise falls apart quickly.” Game Informer slams a “slew-footed story mode.” PC Gamer notes that, with EA not releasing an NHL game on that platform since 2008, there was a need here … but it wasn’t met.

Does that mean there’s no fun to be had? Not necessarily, but it’s a bummer that the game might be off the mark, especially since V7 Entertainment seems to have its heart in the right place.

Then again, maybe those who want that “NHL 94” fix merely need to dig a little. As this Vice article points out, there’s still an active community playing the sort of game that scratches the itch that “Old Time Hockey” – perhaps – can’t quite reach.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Penguins – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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The latest edition of NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry presents quite the treat: the Chicago Blackhawks at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Both teams are at 103 standings points and each squad already punched a ticket to the playoffs. Even so, they’re dealing with mini-slumps that they’d like to work out tonight.

For all we know, this could be a preview of what would be one extremely fun, high-profile 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Either way, it’s a showcase of two premiere franchises brimming with star power.

You can watch on NBCSN, online and via NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream.

Yes, NHL will share protected, available player lists for expansion draft

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We can debate all day how much the NHL, Vegas Golden Knights and others involved really want to do this, but they’re making the right choice with the expansion draft nonetheless. The league will make protected and available players lists available at the same time they’re shared with teams, according to NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika.

(The NHL tweeted out as much, too.)

Could this lead to feelings being hurt or perhaps even certain sneaky deals being scuttled? Perhaps, but those are headaches that management should be expected to absorb.

The bottom line is that an expansion draft is a dream come true for armchair GMs, rumor enthusiasts, fantasy sports fans and … really, just about anyone interested in hockey. It would be a bewildering decision to try to keep all of this information locked down, even for a league that frequently garners a reputation for choosing comfort over entertainment value.

Cotsonika reports that such lists will probably be made available on June 18, though that isn’t set in stone. NHL.com’s Dan Rosen also backs this up as a possible date.

(If you’re the type to take off work if a trade deadline was exciting, you might want to start drumming up excuses/putting aside vacation time/practicing your best “I’m sick” voice just in case …)

Cap Friendly provides a handy timeline for the expansion draft process: