With the publication yesterday of the NHL Super Schedule, I gave a summary of overall travel mileage, and the number of times each team plays on back-to-back nights. Perhaps the most brutal challenge comes, however, when an NHL team is faced with both issues at once; having to play a game one night, travel a long distance, then play again the next evening on little rest while fighting jet lag.
So here's a look at the Top 10 Toughest Back-to-Back Games on the 2009-10 NHL Schedule...
#10: Tampa Bay Lightning, Games 27 & 28
The Lightning play in New Jersey on Friday, December 4th and fly over 1,000 miles home to face the Islanders the next evening. At least they don't have to deal with a time zone change, and well, let's face it, at least they have the Eastern Conference's doormat waiting for them.
#9: Dallas Stars, Games 20 & 21
The Stars wrap up a four-game road trip in Detroit on Wednesday, November 18. Right after battling the Red Wings, they fly 1,000 back to Dallas for a date with the Blue Jackets the next night.
#8: Detroit Red Wings, Games 47 & 48
The Red Wings have a weekend of afternoon games, with a Saturday 2:00 (Eastern time) start in Dallas on Saturday, January 16th, followed by a 3:00 home game on Sunday against Chicago.
#7: Vancouver Canucks, Games 59 & 60
On Thursday, February 11th, the Canucks skate at Florida, then fly to Columbus (968 miles) to take on the Blue Jackets the next night. The start time of the first game is 7:30, while the second begins at 7:00, so they lose an extra 30 minutes there.
#6: Calgary Flames, Games 44 & 45
While a home game against Columbus on Friday, January 8th, followed by a flight from Calgary to Vancouver (419 miles) for a Saturday night game may not sound like much compared to the others on this list, it comes at the end of a busy week for the Flames. They have a back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday as well, making this a stretch of 4 games in 5 nights, with three of those on the road.
#5: Colorado Avalanche, Games 29 & 30
In the middle of a 5-game roadie, the Avalanche square off against the Panthers on Wednesday, December 2nd, then visit the defending Stanley Cup champs in Pittsburgh the next night, a trip just under 1,000 miles.
#4: Florida Panthers (Games 14 & 15) & Washington Capitals (Games 16 & 17)
These Southeast Division rivals play at Florida on Friday, November 6th, then fly up to Washington for a rematch the next night. Perhaps both squads will be extra cranky during the second game due to the lack of sleep. If my kids are any indication, that Saturday night game could be the NHL's equivalent World War III.
#3: Edmonton Oilers, Games 55 & 56
After facing the Philadelphia Flyers at home on Wednesday, February 3rd, the Oilers will fly over 1,000 miles east to Minnesota for a divisional matchup against the Wild the next evening. Between the time zone change and a difference in start times, there's only 22.5 hours between the initial puck drop against Philly, and the faceoff in Minnesota.
#2: New York Islanders, Games 55 & 56
A full weekend faces the Islanders, who play in Philadelphia Saturday evening at 7:00 on January 30th, then fly down to Miami to face the Panthers the following night for a 5:00 puck drop. That's just 22 hours between games, both of them on the road, with the first of them against the ever-physical Flyers and Chris Pronger.
#1: Los Angeles Kings, Games 40 & 41
The Kings will be ready for a New Year's Eve party after road games in Calgary and Minnesota on December 30th and 31st, with another 1,000+ mile journey and only a 22.5 hour difference in between the start times of the two games. Toss in the US/Canada border crossing as well, and that's going to be rough trip.