Tough road ahead for Red Wings: October schedules in Atlantic Division


On Friday, PHT pondered the opening schedules for the Pacific Division teams.

Let’s continue with the Atlantic Division, since they boast cities with alphabet-friendly names. (Very scientific way of deciding these, agreed.)

Don’t be surprised if these schedules prompt follow-ups as the season goes along. In some markets, a tough draw might be ignored while people wonder “What’s wrong with Team X?”

If the Red Wings can navigate their specific challenges, then “Detroit might not be so bad” stories might actually end up being justifiable.

Check out an in-depth preview for the Atlantic Division here.

Bruins (opened with win against Predators)


Mon, Oct 9 vs Colorado
Wed, Oct 11 @ Colorado
Sat, Oct 14 @ Arizona
Sun, Oct 15 @ Vegas
Thu, Oct 19 vs Vancouver
Sat, Oct 21 vs Buffalo
Thu, Oct 26 vs San Jose
Sat, Oct 28 vs Los Angeles
Mon, Oct 30 @ Columbus

Odd start for the Bruins, eh?

It’s strange to see a team skip the opening weekend, but that’s what is happening here, as the Bruins see an early-season break between Thursday’s opener and their second game on Monday. Considering their injury woes, perhaps it will serve as a serious benefit, particularly for guys who might just be day-to-day.

Even with a back-to-back coming next weekend, this is light overall, with another substantial gap in games between Oct. 21 and Oct. 26.

This opens the door for the Bruins to ease the likes of Patrice Bergeron in and out of the lineup, if needed. Heck, it might not be such a bad idea to spell Zdeno Chara here and there, either (if he’d allow it). November gets tougher for the B’s, however.

Sabres (lost in shootout to Habs)


Sat, Oct 7 @ NY Islanders
Mon, Oct 9 vs New Jersey
Thu, Oct 12 @ San Jose
Sat, Oct 14 @ Los Angeles
Sun, Oct 15 @ Anaheim
Tue, Oct 17 @ Vegas
Fri, Oct 20 vs Vancouver
Sat, Oct 21 @ Boston
Tue, Oct 24 vs Detroit
Wed, Oct 25 @ Columbus
Sat, Oct 28 vs San Jose

Looking at Buffalo’s wider schedule, there could be some tough times, with February standing out as maybe their friendliest month.

Some rough waters loom up ahead, including in October. Their first back-to-back is part of the California tour (maybe amend that to Cali-Vegas run going forward?). They face four road games in that Oct. 12-17 stretch, including a back-to-back and three games in four nights.

The Sabres then follow that up with two back-to-back sets.

For a team trying to cement itself as a contender, they’ll be tested early.

Red Wings (opened new arena by beating Wild)


Sat, Oct 7 @ Ottawa
Tue, Oct 10 @ Dallas
Thu, Oct 12 @ Arizona
Fri, Oct 13 @ Vegas
Mon, Oct 16 vs Tampa Bay
Wed, Oct 18 @ Toronto
Fri, Oct 20 vs Washington
Sun, Oct 22 vs Vancouver
Tue, Oct 24 @ Buffalo
Thu, Oct 26 @ Tampa Bay
Sat, Oct 28 @ Florida
Tue, Oct 31 vs Arizona

Ouch. Hopefully the Red Wings enjoyed that home-opener, because they will see the road more than home for a while. Tonight begins a four-game road trip and stretch of five of six away from Detroit. That trip includes a back-to-back, but at least that veteran-heavy team only faces one such set in October.

An end of October/beginning of November stretch could do a number on this team’s dim hopes.

From Oct. 24-28, they play three road games, then they get that Coyotes home match, and then begin November with a four-game trek through Western Canada. So that’s seven of eight games on the road, with a back-to-back nestled (against Oilers and Canucks) in that four-game trip.

With that opener in the books, only four of the Red Wings’ next 16 contests take place in Hockeytown.

Panthers (lost opener against Lightning)


Sat, Oct 7 vs Tampa Bay
Thu, Oct 12 vs St. Louis
Sat, Oct 14 @ Pittsburgh
Tue, Oct 17 @ Philadelphia
Fri, Oct 20 vs Pittsburgh
Sat, Oct 21 @ Washington
Tue, Oct 24 @ Montreal
Thu, Oct 26 vs Anaheim
Sat, Oct 28 vs Detroit
Mon, Oct 30 vs Tampa Bay

Emotionally, the Panthers have to really want to get back at the Bolts to close out this home-and-home. If not, they’ll need to wait until Thursday to try to win their first game of the season.

After that, Florida faces what could be a harrowing five-game stretch. Four of the contests are on the road, two games against the Penguins (making that one home game potentially feel like a road one), and a back-to-back against the Penguins and Capitals.

The Panthers have an opportunity if they can weather the early storm. That Oct. 26 date against the Ducks begins a five-game homestand.

Canadiens (won opener vs. Sabres)

Sat, Oct 7 @ Washington
Sun, Oct 8 @ NY Rangers
Tue, Oct 10 vs Chicago
Sat, Oct 14 vs Toronto
Tue, Oct 17 @ San Jose
Wed, Oct 18 @ Los Angeles
Fri, Oct 20 @ Anaheim
Tue, Oct 24 vs Florida
Thu, Oct 26 vs Los Angeles
Sat, Oct 28 vs NY Rangers
Mon, Oct 30 @ Ottawa

Counting Thursday’s season-opening win, the Canadiens start 2017-18 with a three-game road trip and play six of their first eight on the road. They play their first back-to-back set this weekend against the Capitals and Rangers, providing intriguing barometers for all three teams.

That Oct. 30 visit to the Senators also kicks off a four-game road trip, so Montreal faces some early challenges.

They’ll be rewarded in November, though. After that late October/early November trip, they play six straight and nine of 11 at home. So the Habs just need to grind through this early bump in the road. At least they have fresh legs to start, right?

Senators (lost opener to Capitals)


Sat, Oct 7 vs Detroit
Tue, Oct 10 @ Vancouver
Fri, Oct 13 @ Calgary
Sat, Oct 14 @ Edmonton
Tue, Oct 17 vs Vancouver
Thu, Oct 19 vs New Jersey
Sat, Oct 21 vs Toronto
Tue, Oct 24 vs Los Angeles
Thu, Oct 26 vs Philadelphia
Fri, Oct 27 @ New Jersey
Mon, Oct 30 vs Montreal

The Senators need to brush off injuries and early stumbles soon, because their early schedule opens up with a lot of home games once they get through that Western Canada kick in mid-October.

As you can see, there’s that five-game homestand starting on Oct. 17. It goes deeper than that; the Senators play 11 of 13 games in Ottawa from Oct. 17 – Nov. 18.

That’s about a quarter of their home games for the regular season. Botching that could really make life difficult for a team some expect to regress.

Lightning (beat Panthers in opener)


Sat, Oct 7 @ Florida
Mon, Oct 9 vs Washington
Thu, Oct 12 vs Pittsburgh
Sat, Oct 14 vs St. Louis
Mon, Oct 16 @ Detroit
Tue, Oct 17 @ New Jersey
Thu, Oct 19 @ Columbus
Sat, Oct 21 vs Pittsburgh
Tue, Oct 24 @ Carolina
Thu, Oct 26 vs Detroit
Sat, Oct 28 vs Anaheim
Mon, Oct 30 @ Florida

The Lightning will take care of their in-state rivalry, as they’ll end October having played three games against the Panthers, continuing with tonight’s road contest.

Tampa Bay gets to avoid some of the extremes that many in the Atlantic seem to endure early on. Only facing one back-to-back set is nice. That’s not to say it’s a cakewalk, as that early three-game homestand comes against three potentially potent opponent in the Capitals, Penguins, and Blues.

Still, it seems pretty manageable early on.

Maple Leafs (dominated Jets in opener)


Sat, Oct 7 vs NY Rangers
Mon, Oct 9 vs Chicago
Wed, Oct 11 vs New Jersey
Sat, Oct 14 @ Montreal
Tue, Oct 17 @ Washington
Wed, Oct 18 vs Detroit
Sat, Oct 21 @ Ottawa
Mon, Oct 23 vs Los Angeles
Thu, Oct 26 vs Carolina
Sat, Oct 28 vs Philadelphia
Mon, Oct 30 @ San Jose

After quieting the crowd in Winnipeg, the Maple Leafs play three consecutive games in Toronto in front of what is certain to be an exhilarated fan base.

There’s another three-game home run late in October, so the month now stands as friendly: seven home vs. four road games. That Oct. 30 game against the Sharks does begin a four-game road trip, however.

Scanning the full season, things seem balanced early. The big challenges (road-heavy) come in December, but then comparable opportunities come with a robust home slate to begin 2018 in January.

‘Monster year’ could land John Carlson a monster contract

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John Carlson can’t forget that he is fighting for the NHL lead for points among defensemen because his Washington Capitals teammates keep razzing him about it.

”The guys do a good job of pumping that up in the locker room,” Carlson said.

Carlson’s 61 points have him tied with the Dallas Stars’ John Klingberg, and he is a dark horse candidate for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman.

”John’s having just a whale of a year,” teammate Matt Niskanen said. ”Monster year – production, been carrying the load all year. He’s been a stalwart back there for us.”

This breakout season with a career-high 15 goals and 46 assists is coming at a perfect time for Carlson, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer but has been flying under the radar compared to New York Islanders captain John Tavares. Carlson command upward of $7 million per season on a deal that’s almost certain to be eight years if Washington re-signs him or seven if he hits the market July 1.

The 28-year-old has outperformed the six-year contract he signed in 2012 that pays him just under $4 million a year. He has shown the ability to be a dominant No. 1 defenseman by averaging 25 minutes a game, running the point on the top power-play unit, killing penalties and drawing the toughest matchups.

A 2008 first-round pick of the Capitals, Carlson likes Washington and would like to stay if the fit is there. General manager Brian MacLellan has said he believes each side wants to get a deal done but will wait until after the season to try to make it happen.

The big question is whether the Capitals can make it work under the salary cap, which might require trades even though the ceiling is expected to go up to between $78 million and $82 million from $75 million.

Carlson might not reach the $7.875 million annual salary of Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman, who along with Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings is a Norris front-runner, but he might not be far off. Carlson has more of an offensive punch than San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, whose new deal pays him $7 million a year, and he has almost double the points of the next-highest potential free agent defenseman, former Capitals teammate Mike Green, who’s 32.

”He’s always been steady,” Washington goaltender Braden Holtby said of Carlson. ”His role’s expanded, obviously, which shows: time on ice and points and such. He’s got all the tools of a great defenseman. ”

Carlson isn’t the only player excelling in a contract year. Here are some others:

James van Riemsdyk

Thirty-goal scorers get paid handsomely in free agency because they are so rarely available. Van Riemsdyk’s 33 goals are 11th-most in the NHL, and the 6-foot-3, 217-pound left-winger has gotten better around the net. Van Riemsdyk, the second overall pick in 2007, has another one of the league’s best bargain contracts at $4.25 million a year, which Toronto inherited from Philadelphia. The Maple Leafs have expressed interest in keeping the 28-year-old.


Undoubtedly the best pending free agent, Tavares still not having a new contract with the New York Islanders is generating buzz and whispers like Steven Stamkos two years ago. Stamkos re-upped with Tampa Bay on the eve of free agency, which Tavares could do. The Islanders will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season and sixth time in Tavares’ nine years in the league. The point-a-game player with 32 goals and 43 assists could fetch $10 million a year or more if he isn’t back with New York.

David Perron

The expansion Vegas Golden Knights struck gold with Perron, whose 66 points are a career high and a big reason they are leading the Pacific Division. The soon-to-be 30-year-old winger got his game back after bouncing around to four different teams the past five seasons and could easily re-sign with Vegas like teammate Jonathan Marchessault did.

Joe Thornton

Knee surgery knocked Thornton out of the San Jose Sharks’ lineup in January, cutting short a season in which he had 36 points in 43 games at age 38. If Thornton shows he can still play at the top of his game when he returns, he will be in demand for another one-year contract.

Rick Nash

Going from the New York Rangers to Boston appears to have reinvigorated Nash’s game after just 28 points in 60 games before the trade. The 33-year-old power winger’s contract year won’t truly be judged until the playoffs, where he gets another chance to exorcise some past demons.

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Starting goaltenders battling fatigue as playoffs loom

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Behind the mask is a mind filled with a web of a thousand thoughts, worries and a singular focus of what it takes to win a game.

Then the next game, then the one after that.

”There is no shut-off for a goaltender,” retired goalie Brian Boucher said. ”The mind doesn’t shut off.”

A starting NHL goaltender bears a burden unlike any position in hockey and few others in sports, and the resulting pressure builds up over the course of a season. By this time of year, with the playoffs on the horizon, No. 1 goalies have grinded through almost six months of work and are battling fatigue that threatens to derail their team’s hopes.

Andrei Vasilevskiy of Tampa Bay is going through it for the first time while Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals is used to it by now. Goalies of all ages have no choice but to manage the physical and mental hurdles.

”It’s one of those things that you’ve got find ways to make sure you’re prepared and ready to play every game,” Holtby said. ”As a goaltender, there’s not much room to take nights off.”

It’s worse for the goalies whose teams can’t afford to start a backup. Boucher started the final 13 games for Philadelphia in 2010 to help them make the playoffs, Jonathan Quick started 20 of the final 21 games for the Los Angeles Kings when they tried to make a furious push to make it in 2015 and Kari Lehtonen could be counted on to play the final nine games of the Dallas Stars’ season now as they claw for a spot.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

”You’ll go through the whole night thinking about tomorrow, show up to the rink in the morning thinking about tonight and then you show up to the game thinking about the game,” said Boucher, now an analyst for NBC Sports. ”Not until that horn goes off at the very end can you finally go, ‘Whew,’ and take a deep breath and hopefully it’s in a celebration with your teammates. …. You have a shower, you feel good about things, you go home, you kind of decompress and then the next day it starts again: the butterflies, the nerves, the thinking about your opponent. And that’s the mental fatigue that comes into it.”

That’s what Vasilevskiy is dealing with at age 23, 58 starts into his first season as the full-time starter and the league leader in victories.

”Tiredness is something that I probably never faced before,” he told The Tampa Bay Times.

The same goes for Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who is between the pipes for meaningful games and on the cusp of his first playoff appearance. Jets goaltending coach Wade Flaherty talks to Hellebuyck almost daily about what he needs to be successful, and the staff pays careful attention to making sure the 24-year-old is good to go.

Coach Paul Maurice said the Jets are aware of the balance between rhythm and rest but aren’t holding Hellebuyck back.

”There’s a fatigue component that a No. 1 goaltender also has to embrace,” Maurice said. ”He has to learn how to play when he doesn’t feel 100 percent right because that’s basically going to be his life.”

Winnipeg has been able to give Hellebuyck blocks of two or three days completely off, a rarity for top goalies this time of year. The Nashville Predators have a big enough lead atop the Central Division that they can afford to lighten Pekka Rinne‘s workload down the stretch, which could be a huge benefit.

”I like thinking outside the box,” former goalie Martin Biron said. ”You may have a Friday-Saturday game, have a Tuesday game, have a Thursday game. You can play your starter on Friday-Saturday and not play him on Tuesday so he gets Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday (off) and then he gets ready for the weekend again for the Thursday. There’s a lot more days to be able to decompress and really think about how to reset and re-prepare.”

Holtby got a 10-day reset from a month-plus of struggles as Philipp Grubauer started four games in a row. Having a reliable backup is a luxury Washington has – and Holtby doesn’t like taking days off, either. Toronto starter Frederik Andersen recently joked that he’s more tired of being asked if he’s tired than he is from facing the most shots in the league.

Practice shots, warmups, travel and mental and physical preparation are also part of the wear and tear. Analyst Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild said those can be spaced out over weeks and months.

”Anything you can do to get a little bit of extra sleep over the course of the season is absolutely monumental when it comes time for the playoff push,” Goldman said.

Biron, who started 59 games for Philadelphia in 2007-08 and backed up Henrik Lundqvist when the New York Rangers realized the ”King” needed more time off, figures 60 is the perfect number for a starter. For someone like Vasilevskiy who can’t afford to learn and wait for next year, Boucher said he hopes a more relaxed market like Tampa Bay helps now and the rush of the playoffs gets him through the grind in a few weeks.

”I think Vasilevskiy’s going to be fine just because you watch his physical attributes, they’re through the roof,” Boucher said. ”So the physical side doesn’t look like it’s an issue. Now it’s his time to shine.”

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Vladimir Tarasenko returns to Blues at pivotal time

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The St. Louis Blues are getting Vladimir Tarasenko back at a crucial time.

Tarasenko missed the past two games with an upper-body injury — a suspected but never confirmed concussion — and returns with the Blues sitting three points back of the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.

The Blues host the Vancouver Canucks on Friday and hold a game in hand over the Anaheim Ducks

Tarasenko sits second on the team in scoring with 27 goals and 58 points in 71 games.

The Blues don’t have much wiggle room in terms of losses in their last nine games. Anaheim is going for their fifth straight win and the Colorado Avalanche have been on fire ever since the return of Nathan MacKinnon.

But the Blues have won three in a row themselves to put themselves back in contention.

The return of a talent as good as Tarasenko can only help their efforts.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Wayne Huizenga, founding owner of Florida Panthers, dies at 80

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MIAMI (AP) — College dropout Wayne Huizenga started with a trash hauling company, struck gold during America’s brief love affair with VHS tapes and eventually owned three professional sports teams.

Huizenga owned Blockbuster Entertainment, AutoNation and the world’s largest trash hauler, and was founding owner of baseball’s Florida Marlins and the NHL Florida Panthers. He bought the NFL Miami Dolphins for $138 million in 1994.

The one thing he never got was a Super Bowl win.

Huizenga died late Thursday, according to Valerie Hinkell, his longtime assistant. He was 80.

The Marlins won the 1997 World Series, and the Panthers reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1996, but Huizenga’s beloved Dolphins never reached a Super Bowl while he owned the team.

”If I have one disappointment, the disappointment would be that we did not bring a championship home,” Huizenga said shortly after he sold the Dolphins to New York real estate billionaire Stephen Ross, who still owns the team. ”It’s something we failed to do.”

Huizenga earned an almost cult-like following among business investors who watched him build Blockbuster Entertainment into the leading video rental chain by snapping up competitors. He cracked Forbes’ list of the 100 richest Americans, becoming chairman of Republic Services, one of the nation’s top waste management companies, and AutoNation, the nation’s largest automotive retailer.

”You just have to be in the right place at the right time,” he said. ”It can only happen in America.”

For a time, Huizenga was also a favorite with South Florida sports fans, drawing cheers and autograph seekers in public. The crowd roared when he danced the hokey pokey on the field during an early Marlins game. He went on a spending spree to build a veteran team that won the World Series in only the franchise’s fifth year.

But his popularity plummeted when he ordered the roster dismantled after that season. He was frustrated by poor attendance and his failure to swing a deal for a new ballpark built with taxpayer money.

Many South Florida fans never forgave him for breaking up the championship team. Huizenga drew boos when introduced at Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino’s retirement celebration in 2000, and kept a lower public profile after that.

In 2009, Huizenga said he regretted ordering the Marlins’ payroll purge.

”We lost $34 million the year we won the World Series, and I just said, ‘You know what, I’m not going to do that,”’ Huizenga recalled. ”If I had it to do over again, I’d say, ‘OK, we’ll go one more year.”’

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He sold the Marlins in 1999 to John Henry, and sold the Panthers in 2001, unhappy with rising NHL player salaries and the stock price for the team’s public company.

Huizenga’s first sports love was the Dolphins – he had been a season-ticket holder since their inaugural season in 1966. But he fared better in the NFL as a businessman than as a sports fan.

He turned a nifty profit by selling the Dolphins and their stadium for $1.1 billion, nearly seven times what he paid to become sole owner. But he knew the bottom line in the NFL is championships, and his Dolphins perennially came up short.

Huizenga earned a reputation as a hands-off owner and won raves from many loyal employees, even though he made six coaching changes. He eased Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Shula into retirement in early 1996, and Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, interim coach Jim Bates, Nick Saban, Cam Cameron and Tony Sporano followed as coach.

In 2008, Huizenga’s final season as owner, the Dolphins had a turnaround year and won the AFC East on the final day of the regular season.

”It was a magical feeling,” Huizenga said. ”I had tears in my eyes. I kept looking away so I wouldn’t have to wipe my eyes in front of everybody.”

Miami lost in the first round of the playoffs and didn’t return to the postseason until 2016. But Huizenga won praise from such disparate personalities as Shula, Johnson and Marlins manager Jim Leyland even when they no longer worked for him.

Harry Wayne Huizenga was born in the Chicago suburbs on Dec. 29, 1937, to a family of garbage haulers. He attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but dropped out and began his own garbage hauling business in Pompano Beach, Florida, in 1962. He would drive a garbage truck from 2 a.m. to noon each day, then shower and go out and solicit new customers in the afternoon.

One customer successfully sued Huizenga, saying that in an argument over a delinquent account, Huizenga injured him by grabbing his testicles – an allegation Huizenga always denied.

”I never did that. The guy was a deputy cop. It was his word against mine, a young kid,” he told Fortune magazine in 1996.

He eventually bought out several competitors, expanding throughout South Florida. In 1968, he merged with the Chicago sanitation company his uncles owned, creating Waste Management Inc., which eventually became the world’s largest trash company. That became his method of operation – becoming the first national player in industries that had been dominated by small and local operations. He resigned from the company in 1984, taking $100 million in stock.

But retirement bored him and he soon began buying dozens of small businesses like hotels and pest control companies. In 1987, a business partner persuaded him to check out Blockbuster, a small chain of video stores. At the time, video stores were mostly locally owned mom-and-pop operations. Huizenga didn’t even own a VCR.

”I had an image of them being dark and dingy and dirty types of adult bookstores,” he told The Miami Herald. ”But when I finally saw a Blockbuster store, it opened my mind.”

The stores were clean and carried 10,000 titles, 10 times more than the typical corner video store. He loved the concept and thought it could become the McDonalds of video. He and two partners bought 43 percent of the business for $19 million and he became chairman and president. By 1991, the chain had grown to over 1,800 stores, with one opening every 17 hours, on average.

”The whole deal was to move quickly before our competition saw what we were doing and moved in on us,” he told the business magazine FSB in 2003.

In 1994, Viacom bought Blockbuster, then a publicly traded company, for about $8 billion.

In 1995, Huizenga got back into trash hauling by buying Republic Waste Industries Inc. for $27 million. Mergers and acquisitions soon followed. He renamed the company Republic Industries as it branched out, buying Alamo Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental.

Republic, under Huizenga’s leadership, then started AutoNation, a national chain of car dealerships – again, an industry that had been dominated by local and regional ownership. At its peak, AutoNation had about 375 dealerships in 17 states.

Republic Services was spun off in 1998 to control the waste management portion of the portfolio, a sector that had grown to more than $1 billion in annual sales. He remained its chairman until 2002.

Huizenga became a large benefactor of Nova Southeastern University, a private South Florida school where the Dolphins train. Its business school is named after him – even though he never completed college.

In 1960 he married Joyce VanderWagon. Together they had two children, Wayne Jr. and Scott. They divorced in 1966. Wayne married his second wife, Marti Goldsby, in 1972. She died in 2017.