Teams that face the most travel, back-to-back sets in 2014-15

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Hockey fans love to brag about the toughness of players, so it only makes sense that there’s also a subset of fans who frequently bellow about which team faces the toughest schedule.

With the release of the 2014-15 schedules for all 30 teams, it’s likely that those arguments began to crop up on Sunday. Dirk Hoag’s annual “Super Schedule” post has been a godsend for such trivial – if entertaining – debates, so there were a few people who were quite excited when he put it up on Hockey HQ.

We can quibble about the impact of stronger divisional opponents on a team’s schedule and the timing of road/home stretches, yet people generally lean on two overarching standards: 1) how much travel a squad faces and/or 2) the number of back-to-back sets in a season.

As subjective as these debates can be, things get more black-and-white when you look at it from a numbers standpoint:

Travel

Click here for the full lists, but let’s break things down by the top five and bottom five in travel first:

Most travel

1. Arizona Coyotes – 49,818 miles
2. Dallas Stars – 48,216
3. Anaheim Ducks – 46,967
4. Edmonton Oilers – 45,597
5. San Jose Sharks – 45,318

(Vancouver’s just behind at 45,173.)

Least travel

1. Philadelphia Flyers – 31,272 miles
2. Pittsburgh Penguins – 32,444
3. New York Islanders – 33,214
4. Ottawa Senators – 33,421
5. New Jersey Devils – 33,597

Notes: The Toronto Maple Leafs (34,020) and Detroit Red Wings (34,179) have pretty light travel loads, too. In 2013-14, the Coyotes (then Phoenix) faced the second-largest amount of travel miles at 52,633, second only to the San Jose Sharks (57,612). As you may notice, no team will travel more than 50,000 miles this season. The New York Rangers and New York Islanders faced less than 30,000 miles last season.

Back-to-back games

Most back-to-back sets

1 (tied). Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets – 19 back-to-back sets
3 (tied). New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs – 18
5. Pittsburgh Penguins – 17

Five teams are tied for sixth with 16 back-to-back sets (Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins.)

Fewest back-to-back sets

1. (tied) Winnipeg Jets and Los Angeles Kings – nine
3. Calgary Flames – 10
4 (tied) – Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers – 11

Notes: Three teams (Tampa Bay, Vancouver and Detroit) are next in back-to-back sets with 12. In 2013-14, the New Jersey Devils (22) and Carolina Hurricanes (20) eclipsed the 20 back-to-back set mark. The Jets tied for the fewest back-to-back games with 10 last season, too.

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If there’s one clear takeaway from comparing this season’s super schedule to the 2013-14, it’s that schedules are quite a bit more balanced this time around. After all, there’s no lockout or Olympic break to wrestle with this time around. Maybe Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said it the best/worst, though:

*Scratches head in confusion*

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.