The Nashville Predators will have to go to great lengths to accommodate the combination of the National Hockey League’s new scheduling format and an 18-day Olympic break in the 2013-14 regular season.
A seven-game road trip that begins Oct. 31 will force the team to travel from one end of the country to the other and to play in three different time zones. The only time zone in which the Predators will not play during that stretch is their own.
The NHL released its entire 2013-14 schedule Friday, shortly after an agreement to allow NHL players to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia, was announced.
Nashville opens with two games on the road beginning Oct. 3 at St. Louis. The home opener is Oct. 8 against new division rival Minnesota and kicks of a stretch of five straight contests at Bridgestone Arena.
The NHL will halt play from Feb. 9 to Feb. 26 in order to allow the estimated 120-plus players to take part in the Olympics.
"The National Hockey League features the most international player population in professional sports, and our outstanding athletes take tremendous pride in representing their homelands on the global stage," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "The decision to participate in the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi was in many ways a difficult one, but one that we know will be well received by our Players and, most importantly, by the vast majority of our fans and sports fans everywhere."
NHL players have participated in the last five Winter Olympics, dating back to the 1998 Games at Nagano, Japan.
Six players from Nashville’s roster represented five different countries in 2010 at Vancouver. That group included Shea Weber of Canada and Ryan Suter of the United States, whose teams met in the gold medal game.
That season, the Predators went 14-6-1 after the Olympics and finished seventh in the Western Conference standings.
This season is the first under a realignment plan based upon geography. Nashville is in a seven-team division that also includes Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota, Winnipeg, Colorado and Dallas.
The schedule consists of five games each against all of those teams except Colorado. The Predators and Avalanche will play four times. Nashville also will play the other seven Western Conference teams three times each and a home-and-home with all 16 Eastern Conference clubs.
The increase in inter-conference games is evident in that early road trip, which begins at Phoenix, continues to Los Angeles, Colorado and Winnipeg and concludes in the east with games at New Jersey, the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh.
The game against the Penguins is Nov. 15, and the Predators host the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, the following night.
The trip is necessitated by the CMA Awards, which take over Bridgestone Arena at that time. In the most recent 82-game season the Predators had a five-game road trip in early November but the Olympic break creates a more condensed schedule.
"Our new realigned division gives Preds fans a reason to get excited with the return of established rivals the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues, and the birth of new rivalries with the likes of Dallas and Minnesota," Predators CEO Jeff Cogen said.
For the complete 2013-14 Nashville Predators schedule, click here.