NHL rolls out the 2012-13 schedule

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It’s finally time to dig out your travel agent’s phone number and start looking for excuses to get off work; the NHL’s 2012-13 season schedule has been released. You can scroll through the whole thing here and read more about it in this link.

(Also, go team-by-team here.)

If you don’t feel like clicking around, this post will cover some of the high points.

First, here are some key dates, via the NHL’s press release:

Opening Day: Saturday, Jan. 19
Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada: Saturday, Feb. 9
Hockey Day in America: Sunday, Feb. 17
Regular season concludes: Saturday, Apr. 27
NHL Draft Drawing: Monday, Apr. 29
Stanley Cup Playoffs begin: Tuesday, Apr. 30
Latest possible date for Stanley Cup Final: Friday, June 28

Want some individual games to watch? PHT will probably go deeper in-depth later, but here are a few that deserve attention off the bat with some help from NHL.com:

Jan. 19 (season opener)

The season kicks off with Pittsburgh at Philadelphia, Ottawa at Winnipeg, Chicago at Los Angeles, New York Rangers at Boston, Toronto at Montreal, New Jersey at the New York Islanders, Washington at Tampa Bay, Carolina at Florida, Detroit at St. Louis, Columbus at Nashville, Phoenix at Dallas, Colorado at Minnesota, and Anaheim at Vancouver.

Jan. 26 (Los Angeles at Phoenix)

The Kings return to face the Coyotes in Glendale. Will the ‘Yotes try to extract revenge against Dustin Brown for that controversial knee-to-knee?

March 9 (Minnesota at Nashville)

Ryan Suter and his new team, the Wild, visit his old home in Nashville. Will he hug it out with Shea Weber before the game?

April 20 (Phoenix at Chicago)

Remember that Raffi Torres hit on Marian Hossa? The Blackhawks surely do – and the polarizing hitter’s suspension should be over by then.

April 27 (season conclusion)

The last day of the season includes Jordan Staal playing in Pittsburgh, as well as the possible final games for Jaromir Jagr, Daniel Alfredsson and Teemu Selanne. Here’s the list of end-of-the-season skirmishes:

New Jersey at New York Rangers, Montreal at Toronto, Philadelphia at Ottawa, Carolina at Pittsburgh, Boston at Washington, Florida at Tampa Bay, Nashville at Columbus, Minnesota at Colorado, Chicago at St. Louis, Detroit at Dallas, Vancouver at Edmonton, Phoenix at Anaheim and San Jose at Los Angeles.

The NHL’s handy press release lists the opening games for each NHL team:

SEASON OPENERS

ANAHEIM – Saturday, Jan. 19, at Vancouver
BOSTON – Saturday, Jan. 19, vs. NY Rangers
BUFFALO – Sunday, Jan. 20, vs. Philadelphia
CALGARY – Sunday, Jan. 20, vs. San Jose
CAROLINA – Saturday, Jan. 19, at Florida
CHICAGO – Saturday, Jan. 19, at Los Angeles
COLORADO – Saturday, Jan. 19, at Minnesota
COLUMBUS – Saturday, Jan. 19, at Nashville
DALLAS – Saturday, Jan. 19, vs. Phoenix
DETROIT – Saturday, Jan. 19, at St. Louis
EDMONTON – Sunday, Jan. 20, at Vancouver
FLORIDA – Saturday, Jan. 19, vs. Carolina
LOS ANGELES – Saturday, Jan. 19, vs. Chicago
MINNESOTA – Saturday, Jan. 19, vs. Colorado
MONTREAL – Saturday, Jan. 19, vs. Toronto
NASHVILLE – Saturday, Jan. 19, vs. Columbus
NEW JERSEY – Saturday, Jan. 19, at NY Islanders
NY ISLANDERS – Saturday, Jan. 19, vs. New Jersey
NY RANGERS – Saturday, Jan. 19, at Boston
OTTAWA – Saturday, Jan. 19, at Winnipeg
PHILADELPHIA – Saturday, Jan. 19, vs. Pittsburgh
PHOENIX – Saturday, Jan. 19, at Dallas
PITTSBURGH – Saturday, Jan. 19, at Philadelphia
ST. LOUIS – Saturday, Jan. 19, vs. Detroit
SAN JOSE – Sunday, Jan. 20, at Calgary
TAMPA BAY – Saturday, Jan. 19, vs. Washington
TORONTO – Saturday, Jan. 19, at Montreal
VANCOUVER – Saturday, Jan. 19, vs. Anaheim
WASHINGTON – Saturday, Jan. 19, at Tampa Bay
WINNIPEG – Saturday, Jan. 19, vs. Ottawa

And since you’ve waited up all night for these details, that release also painstakingly lists home openers (the Ducks sure wait a long time, don’t they?):

HOME OPENERS

ANAHEIM – Friday, Jan. 25, Vancouver
BOSTON – Saturday, Jan. 19, NY Rangers
BUFFALO – Sunday, Jan. 20, Philadelphia
CALGARY – Sunday, Jan. 20, San Jose
CAROLINA – Tuesday, Jan. 22, Tampa Bay
CHICAGO – Tuesday, Jan. 22, St. Louis
COLORADO – Tuesday, Jan. 22, Los Angeles
COLUMBUS – Monday, Jan. 21, Detroit
DALLAS – Saturday, Jan. 19, Phoenix
DETROIT – Tuesday, Jan. 22, Dallas
EDMONTON – Tuesday, Jan. 22, San Jose
FLORIDA – Saturday, Jan. 19, Carolina
LOS ANGELES – Saturday, Jan. 19, Chicago
MINNESOTA – Saturday, Jan. 19, Colorado
MONTREAL – Saturday, Jan. 19, Toronto
NASHVILLE – Saturday, Jan. 19, Columbus
NEW JERSEY – Tuesday, Jan. 22, Philadelphia
NY ISLANDERS – Saturday, Jan. 19, New Jersey
NY RANGERS – Sunday, Jan. 20, Pittsburgh
OTTAWA – Monday, Jan. 21, Florida
PHILADELPHIA – Saturday, Jan. 19, Pittsburgh
PHOENIX – Sunday, Jan. 20, Chicago
PITTSBURGH – Wednesday, Jan. 23, Toronto
ST. LOUIS – Saturday, Jan. 19, Detroit
SAN JOSE – Thursday, Jan. 24, Phoenix
TAMPA BAY – Saturday, Jan. 19, Washington
TORONTO – Monday, Jan. 21, Buffalo
VANCOUVER – Saturday, Jan. 19, Anaheim
WASHINGTON – Tuesday, Jan. 22, Winnipeg
WINNIPEG – Saturday, Jan. 19, Ottawa

Burns and Thornton pose nude for ESPN Body Issue, and yes, it’s weird

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Hey, have you ever wanted to see Brent Burns and Joe Thornton essentially line up against each other naked?

Well, ESPN the Magazine interrupted your answer either way, going ahead and doing it for their vaunted Body Issue.

Considering Thornton’s UFA status, there’s at least an outside chance that this will be their final action together as members of the San Jose Sharks.

This is your last chance not to scroll and see Thornton, Burns, beards, tattoos, and not a whole lot else.

/waits

Former teammate Jason Demers captured it on Twitter, making it his background, and generally winning the Internet for the day:

Did anyone else think about Thornton’s line after Tomas Hertl scored four goals? No? OK.

The real highlight might be Burns and Thornton giggling in robes, honestly.

Click here for more on that issue, including information on U.S. women’s ice hockey team members who will also be featured.

Hjalmarsson shocked by Blackhawks trade, but Coyotes could improve soon

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Who could blame Niklas Hjalmarsson for being surprised that the Chicago Blackhawks traded him? The move blindsided … well, just about everyone outside of the Blackhawks organization, after all.

“It’s going to take some time to get used to that thought,” Hjalmarsson said, according to the Arizona Republic. “At the same time, I’m trying to always be a positive guy.”

Indeed, the 30-year-old defenseman did his best to say all the right things about the Arizona Coyotes, praising a roster that includes “a lot of young and promising players.”

MORE on the trade here

Described by some as the NHL’s best pure defensive defenseman, Hjalmarsson also gives the Coyotes good reason to be excited by a blueline that’s suddenly quite competitive. Consider the quartet that GM John Chayka helped assemble:

Hjalmarsson: An often-underrated part of the Blackhawks’ run. Consider some of the praise he received even before this move was made.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson: One of the league’s best-kept secrets, “OEL” ranks as one of the most dangerous scoring defensemen. At 25, he’s still deep in his prime.

Alex Goligoski: When you consider the Dallas Stars’ lost 2016-17 season, don’t dismiss the absence of “Gogo.” He might not be perfect, but the 31-year-old is the sort of puck-mover you need to excel in the modern game.

Jakob Chychrun: At 19, he’s already getting reps at the NHL level. The Coyotes could pair him with a veteran and watch him grow.

***

When you look at those four, in particular, it’s easier to see Hjalmarsson’s excitement as more than just lip service. It probably doesn’t hurt that the Coyotes also added Derek Stepan, another sign that this franchise is taking the next step after absorbing other franchises’ problem contracts in the likes of Dave Bolland and Pavel Datsyuk’s last year.

Granted, it will still be an adjustment, as the Coyotes are likely aiming for “respectable” while anything less that a deep run was unacceptable for the Blackhawks.

Still, Hjalmarsson has plenty of power to make this move more palatable than it may have initially seemed.

And, hey, who would blame him for circling Oct. 21 on his calendar?

Report: Coyotes to talk to Todd Nelson about coaching vacancy

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The Arizona Coyotes had a somewhat unexpected shakeup this past week when the team and long-time head coach Dave Tippett mutually agreed to part ways after nine seasons together.

The search for a replacement began immediately and according to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal the Coyotes will be speaking to former Oilers coach Todd Nelson about the vacancy.

Nelson spent 51 games behind the Oilers bench during the 2014-15 season replacing Dallas Eakins. Nelson was replaced at the conclusion of that season by former San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan. While his NHL head coaching experience is limited to that brief time in Edmonton, he has an extensive track record in the American Hockey League with the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton’s top farm team) and currently the Grand Rapids Griffins (the Detroit Red Wings’ top farm team).

He has spent the past two seasons in Grand Rapids — replacing Jeff Blashill after he was promoted to the Detroit job — and has had a ton of success, leading the team to the Calder Cup this past season.

Predators won’t trade defense for forward help

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After losing James Neal to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft this past week the Nashville Predators have a pretty glaring hole in their top-six that is going to need to be addressed. Along with that, captain Mike Fisher is an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and is also considering retirement.

Because of those two developments general manager David Poile has made adding a top-six forward a priority for this summer, and he certainly has the salary cap space to get something done.

One thing he is not going to do, however, is trade one of his defensemen to find that help up front.

“We’ve traded enough defensemen in my recent history,” Poile said on Saturday, via the Tennessean. “I think everybody would be pretty much on the same page that our defense drives our team and our corps is as good as any in the league. We will not be touching our defense in the near future here.”

Over the past two years Poile has traded Shea Weber and Seth Jones off of his blue line but has still managed to assemble the NHL’s best defense. The quartet of P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm is so good that Poile made sure to protect all four of them in the expansion draft and leave Neal — a consistent 25-to 30-goal scorer signed for one more year on a pretty good contract — exposed for Vegas to take.

Without dealing one of their top-four defensemen it might be difficult to find an impact winger via the trade route, which might force them to turn to the free agent market.

But even that is going to be difficult because it is such a limited market. Now that T.J. Oshie has re-signed with the Washington Capitals Alexander Radulov would probably be the top winger available, but given his history with Nashville there is virtually no chance of that reunion happening. Justin Williams would be an intriguing veteran option, while Joe Thornton could help fill the void at center if Fisher does not return.

Still, not trading from the defense is the absolute right path for Poile and the Predators to take. Not only is that group the backbone of the Predators’ organization and one of the driving forces behind its success, it is also an extremely young group that is all signed long-term on cap friendly deals.

Even with the loss of Neal Nashville still has a deep group of forwards, while youngsters Pontus Aberg and Kevin Fiala could get an increased role and an opportunity to shine.