NASHVILLE — It’s the middle of summer, optimism’s high and the Blue Jackets officially released their new slate of 82 games for fans to digest next season.
John Tortorella, Cam Atkinson and the Philadelphia Flyers will be the opposition for the Oct. 12 season-opener at Nationwide Arena, which begins a four-game homestand that includes games against the New York Rangers (Oct. 14), Detroit Red Wings (Oct. 16) and Calgary Flames (Oct. 20).
That homestand plus another four-gamer Mar. 30 to April 6 are the longest consecutive stretches of games the Blue Jackets will play in Columbus and two five-game trips — Jan. 23-30 and Mar. 19-28 — are their longest road stretches. The Blue Jackets host five Metropolitan Division teams twice and welcome the Washington Capitals into town just once (Dec. 21) within the division.
After getting the eight-game preseason schedule last week, Blue Jackets fans can now make plans for which games they’d like to attend. Players and coaches, meanwhile, have a new schedule to dissect as they go through summer workouts.
Here are three things to know about the Blue Jackets’ 2023-24 schedule:
Columbus Blue Jackets have more reasonable schedule starting out
Last season’s first eight games were a gauntlet of playoff qualifiers who quickly put the Jackets’ season behind the eight ball. Combined with multiple injuries, it led to Columbus going 3-9-0 in its first 12 games on the way to posting the second-worst record in the league.
This year’s starting schedule doesn’t look nearly as daunting. Five of their first six games are at home and five of the Jackets’ nine October opponents didn’t qualify for the playoffs this past season. Should they stay healthy, there will be a chance to have a hot start.
Two long, strange trips to test Columbus Blue Jackets
Each of the Blue Jackets’ trips to the Western portion of North America include oddball road dates tacked onto each end.
The first is a five-game trip that runs Jan 23-30 and leads into a “bye” week sandwiched around the NHL All-Star weekend. It starts in Edmonton (Jan. 23) and includes four more games in Calgary (Jan. 25), Vancouver (Jan. 27), Seattle (Jan. 28) and St. Louis (Jan. 20). The second is a four-game trip that begins in Ottawa (Feb. 13) and includes games all the way out in San Jose (Feb. 17), Los Angeles (Feb. 20) and Anaheim (Feb. 21).
Following the Blue Jackets on those trips will rack up the frequent flier miles.
Columbus Blue Jackets fortunate with back-to-back games
The Blue Jackets had 17 sets of back-to-back games last season and struggled mightily with them. They went just 5-12-0 in the first 17 games and 4-10-2 in the second games for a total of just 9-22-2 in back-to-backs.
This year, there’s four less sets of back-to-back games with just 13 on the schedule. That’s the good news. The bad news is that five are road back-to-backs and just one has both games at Nationwide Arena (March 16-17 vs. San Jose and Winnipeg).
Playing four less sets of games on consecutive days, though, is a win-win for Columbus.
Columbus Blue Jackets to face challenging April slate
The gauntlet of playoff qualifiers arrives at the end of the regular season this time, as the Blue Jackets play six of eight games in April against teams coming off postseason appearances. The only two that didn’t are the Flyers (home on April 6) and Nashville Predators (away April 13).
The other six are the Colorado Avalanche (home April 1), New York Islanders (home April 4), Carolina Hurricanes (away April 7), Tampa Bay Lightning (away April 9), Florida Panthers (away April 11) and Hurricanes (home April 16).
Should the Blue Jackets get into contention for a playoff spot, that’s a brutal stretch while fighting to keep their postseason hopes alive.
A day after completing a trade with the Boston Bruins that included former Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno, the Blackhawks signed him Tuesday to a one-year contract worth $4 million.
That means Foligno will re-join former Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones with the Blackhawks, who are expected to select “generational talent” Connor Bedard first overall Wednesday at the NHL draft. Those three will make their lone visit to Columbus on Nov. 22, a day before Thanksgiving.
The Blue Jackets have reason to give thanks for what’s sure to be another good draw that will likely fill Nationwide Arena with fans of both teams.
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: 5 things to know about the Blue Jackets’ 2023-24 schedule
Source: Yahoo Sports