The Vancouver Canucks will drop the puck on their season Saturday night with a home game against the Anaheim Ducks.
The Canucks will have a busy opening weekend. After playing host to the Ducks, they meet the Edmonton Oilers the following night at Rogers Arena.
The National Hockey League finally released its shortened schedule Saturday night after the players ratified the recent tentative agreement and the two sides signed off on a memorandum of understanding.
Each team plays 48 games, all within its respective conference.
The Canucks’ play their 48 games in a stretch of 99 days, with their final game coming April 27 in Edmonton.
They open the season with a three-game homestand as the Calgary Flames visit Vancouver on Jan. 23. The Canucks’ first road trip is a three-game California swing that starts Jan. 25 in Anaheim.
The Canucks schedule features 18 Northwest Division matchups including five games each versus Calgary and Edmonton and four games against Colorado and Minnesota. They play the rest of the Western Conference teams three times each.
Vancouver’s longest road trip of the season comes late as the Canucks begin a five-game trip April 10 in Calgary. Vancouver has two four-game homestands.
The Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings make their only visit to Rogers Arena on March 2. The Chicago Blackhawks are here twice, on Feb. 1 and April 22, as are the Detroit Red Wings on March 16 and April 20.
Teams will begin their short training camps on Sunday. The Canucks will report for medicals Sunday morning and are scheduled to have their first on-ice session at 3 p.m. Sunday at Rogers Arena. The team announced late Saturday that training camp will be open to the public.
The Canucks will hit the ice Monday and Tuesday at 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Scrimmages are set for 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday nights. The Canucks wrap up camp with an 11 a.m. practice on Friday.
Thirty-four players — three goalies, 12 defencemen and 19 forwards — are scheduled to attend camp.
The schedule has some strange quirks. Most notably, the Canucks play in Columbus twice on the same road trip in March. That trip opens March 7 in Columbus, the Canucks play March 10 in Minnesota and then return to play in Columbus again on March 12.
The Canucks play only seven sets of back-to-back games in what is a highly compressed schedule. Their toughest test comes March 18-24 when they play five games in seven nights.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault knows the short schedule will present some challenges. For example, how much patience can a coach afford to have if his team is not playing well.
“That’s the fine line you walk whether it’s an 82-game schedule or a 48-game schedule,” Vigneault said. “How much patience do you have. You look at last year in the first half of the season Minnesota was tops in the NHL and in the second half they were one of the worst teams and they didn’t make the playoffs.
“It’s a different season, a different situation that we have ahead of us and it’s a fine line that we are going to walk.”
Late Saturday, the Canucks posted a letter to their fans on the team’s website. With the headline ‘We’re So Glad To Be Back’ it reads:
“On behalf of our organization, thank you so much for sticking with us. We deeply appreciate it. Our greatest passion is playing exciting hockey, and sharing the game with our fans. We realize the past few months have been incredibly difficult — for all of you who love our great game. We’re working our hardest to give you something to be proud of and passionate about in the months and years ahead. We’ve missed you and can’t wait to play for you on opening night.”
The letter is signed by the players and coaches.