Last month, I unveiled the 2010-11 NHL Super Schedule, which allows you to compare the travel burdens of every team in the league. Which team will travel the most? San Jose. Which will travel the least? New Jersey. That, and much more, is available via a publicly accessible Google Spreadsheet which you can download and analyze to your heart's content.
One particularly grueling aspect of professional hockey is the dreaded "back to back" set of games, in which a team has to play on one night in a given city, then immediately hop aboard a plane and jet to another town for a contest the next night, often arriving in the wee hours of the morning. Toss in the hassle of a US/Canada border crossing, or weather delays, and it's no wonder that sometimes your favorite team looks like they're skating in a collective fog.
So which are the ten nastiest sets of back-to-back games that NHL teams will face this upcoming season? Follow after the jump to find out...
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Buffalo Sabres, Games #64 & 65
The Sabres enjoy an unusual weekend when they play at Philadelphia on Saturday, March 5 at 1:00 p.m., then head to Minnesota for a 5:00 p.m. (Central) start on Sunday. That's almost 1,000 miles of travel, but at least with the early start in Philly they should be able to arrive in Minnesota at a decent time that evening.
Florida Panthers, Games #14 &15
You don't normally think of long-distance travel within the Eastern Conference, but the Panthers are relatively isolated down there in southeast Florida. After a home game against Minnesota on Friday, November 12, they hop on a plane for a 996-mile trip to Philadelphia for a Saturday tilt against the Flyers.
Vancouver Canucks, Games #37 & 38
To finish off a 3-game road trip (that starts New Year's Eve in Dallas), the Canucks play at Colorado on Saturday, January 2nd, then jet over to San Jose (928 miles) for a game the next night against the Sharks.
New York Islanders, Games #39 & 40
The Isles finish off a 5-game Western Conference roadie with a Saturday afternoon date against the Avalanche on January 8, followed by a game in Chicago Sunday night.
Columbus Blue Jackets, Game #77 & 78
On Thursday, March 31st the BJ's play at Washington, only to head home for a game against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks the following night. That's an average Points Percentage from last season of .711 for those two opponents, the 2nd-toughest competition faced by any team in a back-to-back set.
Colorado Avalanche, Games #67 & 68
After hosting the Ducks in Denver on Friday, March 11, the Avs hop on a plane and travel over 1,000 miles for a Saturday night in Smashville against the Predators. The opening faceoffs are just 23 hours apart due to the time zone difference.
Chicago Blackhawks, Games #69 & 70
On Sunday, March 13 the Blackhawks play at Washington in an afternoon start, then come home for a Monday evening faceoff against the San Jose Sharks. That's the top two teams from the 2009-10 Regular Season standings on back-to-back nights, representing the nastiest opponents faced on consecutive nights by any team.
Atlanta Thrashers, Games #17 & 18
Talk about out of the frying pan, into the fire - the Thrashers face the Pittsburgh Penguins at home Saturday evening, November 13, only to have a quick turnaround the next day with a 5:00 p.m. start at Washington. Besides only having 22 hours between opening faceoffs, those are two of the tougher opponents any team will face in a back-to-back set.
Nashville Predators, Games #7 & 8
The Preds have a tough road trip early in the season, starting at Dallas on Saturday, October 23rd before zipping east for a game the next evening against the Lightning, with a 6:00 p.m. Eastern start in Tampa. That's only 22 hours from the start of one game to the next, with over 900 miles on a plane in between.
Phoenix Coyotes and San Jose Sharks, Games #81 & 82
In perhaps the most interesting back-to-back set of the entire 2010-11 campaign, these Pacific Division rivals square off on Friday, April 8 at Phoenix, then finish the season at San Jose the next night. At the very least we should expect playoff positioning, if not a division title, to be on the line in these final games.
Honorable Mention: Los Angeles Kings, Games #34-37
While the travel isn't insane, the Kings do boast this season's only stretch of 4 games in 5 nights. A Sunday, December 26 home game against Anaheim is followed Monday night in San Jose. They then head to Phoenix for a Wednesday tilt, before going back home for a Thursday match against Philadelphia.