Thursday, June 23, 2011

Minnesota Wild 2011-2012: now THIS is a schedule!

Wild get favorable results as NHL releases 2011-12 schedule

By Wild Road Tripper

The NHL released its' 2011-2012 schedule on Thursday, and for once, the schedule makers felt compelled to throw the Minnesota Wild a few breaks.

With 12 Saturday home games, including at least one Saturday home game in each month of the regular season, the Wild will play a total of 20 games (12 home, 8 road) on Saturday, their most popular day of the week, including two Saturday afternoon games (Oct. 22 at Vancouver, and March 17 -- St. Patrick's Day, normally a crazy day in Downtown St. Paul, vs. Carolina) and the sixth Hockey Day Minnesota on January 21, vs. Dallas.

Three Central Division teams -- Columbus, Detroit and St. Louis -- as well as the Phoenix Coyotes, from the Pacific Division, all play in St. Paul exclusively on Saturdays. The Wild play all 4 games (2 home, 2 away) vs. St. Louis on Saturdays, as well as 3 of the 4 Phoenix games are on Saturday. 19 Wild home games are on weekend days; Friday (2 games), Saturday (12 games) or Sunday (5 games). Thursday is the Wild's second-most home night, with 10 Thursday night games on the schedule. 3 Mondays, 7 Tuesdays and 2 Wednesdays round out by day of week at home. Home opponents of note include the Boston Bruins (2:00 PM, February 19), Pittsburgh (Oct. 18), New Jersey (Dec. 2), Winnipeg (Feb. 16), the NY Rangers (March 27). Nine home games make March the busiest home at the 'X', with November's 8 games second.

The Wild play at home on Thanksgiving Eve (Nashville), the Day after Thanksgiving (Edmonton), Boxing Day (Colorado), New Year's Eve (Phoenix), Valentine's Day (Anaheim) and St. Patrick's Day (Carolina).

The Wild dispatch the games in the Northwest early; in fact, the Wild play only one game (at Phoenix, March 8) west of Denver after January 7. In fact, 16 of the 24 games vs. Northwest division opponents will have been played by that date.

But, let's face it: it's the ROAD schedule you want!

The Wild make their first appearance against Winnipeg at the MTS Centre on Dec. 13, the first half of a road-and-home back-to-back (with Chicago at the 'X' the next night), the first of four such situations on the docket. There is one home-and-home B-2-B'er (Nov. 27-28, vs. Calgary and Tampa Bay, respectively), and five two-game-in-two-night road trips as well.

Best road trip opportunities (of course, as always, it's IMHO):

Oct. 10-11 (at NY Islanders, at Ottawa). That noon start on Long Island is really interesting. Kids' opening day. Ottawa can be a house of horrors, though; the Wild haven't won at Scotiabank Place since 2004.

Nov. 10-13 (at San Jose, at Los Angeles, at Anaheim). Three games in four days. In California. Nice.

Dec. 4-10 (at Anaheim, at San Jose, at LA, at Phoenix). Four games in seven days. No back-to-backs. Comfortable, easy trip in the Southwest, just before the holiday craziness starts.

Dec. 13, at MTS Centre, Winnipeg. Charter bus heaven!

January 12-14 (at Chicago, at St. Louis). Another easy travel trip. Might not be so easy hockey-wise, though.

Feb. 18 at St. Louis. An afternoon contest (1 PM start), one day down & back. On a Saturday. (Free food game for the Blues? Possibly!)

Feb. 23-24 (at Florida, at Dallas). Almost too good to pass up, especially if you can get 2-3 days of sun on the front end!

March 1-2 (at Montreal, at Detroit). Another trip that's almost too good to pass up, save for the fact that the second game is, indeed, in Detroit.

March 6-8 (at Colorado, at Phoenix). Could this be the Wild's last trip ever to the desert?

March 24-25 (at Buffalo, at Washington). Another great weekend with 'da boys' in the East.

April 1 (at Chicago, 6 PM start). You could get the last flight out after the game ends...IF you're lucky...or, make it a 3-dayer, and head to Nashville for April 3 vs. the Preds. Another easy trip.

Now, the next question: what type of Wild team will show up this season? The NHL draft, starting Friday night at the 'X'. will begin to tell those questions. I'll be there both days. Will you? --WRT

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