Five highlights from the 2013-14 NHL schedule


On Friday, the NHL released its 2013-14 regular-season schedule and we here at PHT (okay, it’s just me) have identified five of the biggest highlights.

Click here for the full 2013-14 NHL schedule

1) Six Outdoor Games

These contests will fall under three umbrellas: the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series (four games), the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic (one game) and the Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic (one game).

In chronological order, here’s when they’ll be played:

Jan. 1 — Toronto vs. Detroit at Michigan Stadium (Winter Classic)

Jan. 25 — Anaheim vs. Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium (Stadium Series)

Jan. 26 — New York Rangers vs. New Jersey at Yankee Stadium (Stadium Series)

Jan. 29 — New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders at Yankee Stadium (Stadium Series)

Mar. 1 — Pittsburgh vs. Chicago at Soldier Field (Stadium Series)

Mar. 2 — Ottawa vs. Vancouver at BC Place (Heritage Classic)

2) Opening night

Three games will be played on Tuesday, Oct. 1, beginning with the first contest of the year — a historic Original Six matchup between Toronto and Montreal.

That’ll be followed by Chicago vs. Washington at the United Center — featuring the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony — and capped off with Edmonton at Winnipeg in the final game of the evening.

Of note, you can catch the ‘Hawks-Caps game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET).

3) Closing weekend

Breaking from the “Super Saturday” theme of having all 30 teams play on the final day of the regular season, the NHL has opted to load up the final weekend — Saturday, Apr. 12 and Sunday, Apr. 13.

Saturday will feature 18 teams participating in nine games, while Sunday will have 20 teams partaking in 10 games.

Of note, the final game of the regular season will take place in Phoenix, as the Coyotes host the Stars at 9 p.m. ET.

4) Return of the Thanksgiving Showdown

This year’s schedule features the return of the league’s annual Black Friday game, as the Bruins will take on the Rangers at TD Garden in a day-after-Thanksgiving matinee (1 p.m. ET.)

The event began in 2011 (played between the Bruins and Red Wings) but was canceled last season due to the lockout. The Bruins and Rangers were slated to participate in the 2012 event.

5) The Olympic Break

The NHL will play 1,230 games this year, but none during a 16-day break from Feb. 9-25, during which NHLers will participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

This will mark the fifth consecutive winter games the NHL has participated in. Involvement dates back to the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, the first in which professional players were allowed to take part.

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.