Kevin Dineen

Panthers face the second most travel of any NHL team as part of a rough 2011-12 schedule

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.”

Florida Panthers schedule analysis

Total mileage: 52,751 (second most in NHL, most in Southeast Division)

Back-to-back games: 14

Toughest stretches

If you’re among the growing group of people who think the Islanders will take a big jump next season, then the Panthers could be in for some trouble right off the bat. They play two games on the road (Islanders then Penguins) followed by a home-and-home with Tampa Bay. That second Lightning game is followed by a road contest against Washington then two home games (Buffalo and the Isles) followed by three straight road contests.

For a team that’s still getting to know each other, that’s a tough first month. Things get better for the majority of November until it bleeds into a challenging December. They play three road games in a row (including going from Carolina to Los Angeles), stop home for a tough match against the Capitals and then play three more away contests against 2011 playoff teams.

Luckily, the rest of the Panthers’ schedule is gentle – relatively speaking, at least – with just normal four-in-five away runs and similar smaller patches that could cause problems. The last shaky streak is a four-game road trip from late March to early April, but there aren’t a ton of runs that jump out at you (although their overall travel schedule is brutal, especially for an Eastern Conference team).

Easiest periods

November presents the first opportunity in the form of a four-game homestand, although three of those four teams made the playoffs last year and that other team is the enigmatic Devils. December includes another four-gamer with the Devils in the mix, but this time around the only playoff team is the Coyotes, who many believe are a likely cellar dweller in the West.

To nail down their best run, you probably need to look a little longer-term, from mid-February to mid-March.

Feb. 15: home vs. Ottawa
Feb. 17: home vs. Washington
Feb. 19: home vs. Anaheim
Feb 23. home vs. Minnesota
Feb 25. at Carolina
Feb. 26: home vs. Montreal
Feb. 28: at Toronto
March 1: at Winnipeg
March 3: home vs. Nashville
March 4: home vs. Ottawa
March 8: at Philadelphia
March 9: at Pittsburgh
March 11: home vs. Carolina
March 13: home vs. Toronto
March 15: home vs. Boston
March 17: home vs. Buffalo

That lengthy stretch includes two four-game homestands and 11 of 16 games in Florida. Their two sets of back-to-backs are reasonable travel-wise, although they probably won’t send a “Thank You” note to schedule makers after the Flyers and Penguins likely demolish them two days in a row. Still, this is the lengthy stretch in which schedulers give the Panthers the best available apology for a tough bunch of breaks.

Overall outlook

Who would have thought that the Winnipeg Jets wouldn’t even be the most-traveled team in the Southeast? Only the Kings’ rocky road is less friendly than the Panthers’ outlier of a schedule. Florida traveled a solid amount last season (43,144, good for 11th most in the NHL) but this is a significant bump for the Panthers.

Then again, maybe this group of strangers might bond over card games, PSP competition or whatever else they might do during long plane trips. It probably doesn’t bode well for the already shaky health of veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski, though.

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan


Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?