After a few days of teasing, the NHL finally released their schedule for the upcoming 2013-14 season. This will be the Hurricanes first year in the "Metropolitan Conference" featuring all five teams of the former Atlantic Division along with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Washington Capitals. The Hurricanes will play each of these teams four times next year with one extra game against Columbus and Washington respectively. Playing in this division is going to be a test for the Hurricanes because their new "rivals" are a step above what they had to deal with in the Southeast Division in previous seasons. I don't think the outlook is that bad because some of these teams are going through rebuilds, but Carolina's head-to-head play against the Flyers, Rangers and Caps will need to improve for them to stay competitive in this division.
If the increase in competition wasn't enough, Carolina will also have 20 back-to-back games and all but two of them involve are on the road. Success in head-to-head games varies on a yearly basis, but dealing with them can be a challenge, especially to teams with a lot of young players. Six of their back-to-back games come after the Olympic break, where the NHL will be playing somewhat of a crammed schedule.
The one area where Carolina does get a break is that they don't have a lot of long road trips next season, as the mix of home and away games is fairly balanced. Their longest road trips only last four games, one of which coming in late October and the other in early-December where they'll be going to the west coast. They also have a five-game home stand in early November and a four-gamer right before the Olympic break, so those are two parts of the schedule to take advantage of. The schedule also features a healthy dose of afternoon games, which is interesting and a change from year's past.
As for ex-Hurricanes making their triumphant returns, Brandon Sutter & Jussi Jokinen's Penguins will be visiting PNC Arena for the first time on October 28th, Joe Corvo's Ottawa Senators will be in town on November 24th, Dan Ellis and the Dallas Stars will be here on April 3rd and Jamie McBain will make his Buffalo Sabres debut at PNC Arena on March 13th. Let me know if I missed anyone.
All in all, a challenging schedule for the Hurricanes with all of the back-to-backs, but they'll just have to make the most of it like everyone else.