The Dallas Stars are used to traveling. As a geographic outlier in the NHL, there aren’t any train or bus trips, and the closest opponent is always a flight away.
It’s a fact of life, but one that doesn’t get any easier after the NHL released the 2016-17 schedule on Tuesday.
Thanks to the World Cup, it’s a condensed schedule this season. There are several weeks with three games in seven nights, while there are a handful of weeks that feature four games in a seven-day span.
It’s going to create quite the hectic travel schedule for the Stars, who also happen to play in one of the league’s toughest divisions.
Here are a couple key elements from Dallas’ schedule:
Home Games by Day: Mon. – 2, Tues. – 9, Wed. – 2, Thurs. – 12, Fri. – 4, Sat. – 11, Sun. – 1
Road Games by Day: Mon. – 4, Tues. – 11, Wed. – 1, Thurs. – 9, Fri. – 2, Sat. – 7, Sun. – 7
Home Games by Month: Oct. – 4, Nov. – 7, Dec. – 9, Jan. – 7, Feb. – 7, Mar. – 4, Apr. – 3
Road Games by Month: Oct. – 4, Nov. – 9, Dec. – 5, Jan. – 6, Feb. – 5, Mar. – 10, Apr. – 2
Of the Stars 41 home games, 39 are evening starts. Dallas will play matinees on Dec. 17 and Feb. 11, both on Saturdays, which will be part of 16 weekend games at American Airlines Center.
The Stars will have 10 sets of back-to-backs, with the team traveling between each game. Some of which are included in four key stretches on the schedule.
Early battle for the Central:
In a span of five days in early November, the Stars will play fellow Central Division powers St. Louis Blues and then the Chicago Blackhawks in a back-to-back home-and-home weekend.
St. Louis ousted the Stars from the playoffs this past past spring in seven games, while Chicago was the other team in last season’s three-horse battle for central supremacy.
Dallas has the first two games of the stretch at home, while the third will be in Chicago. It should create a playoff atmosphere in early November.
The long home stand:
Dallas will play six straight home games between Jan. 21 and Feb. 4, the longest home stand since the 2010-11 season.
During that time the Washington Capitals, Minnesota Wild, Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, and Blackhawks will visit Texas. And it’s a stretch that should be an exciting group for Stars fans.
Minnesota, Winnipeg, and Chicago are all divisional rivals, while Washington had the NHL’s best record last season. When Toronto visits on Jan. 31, it’ll be the first time Stars fans will get to see presumptive first-overall pick Auston Matthews, while Buffalo is a rebuilding team with Jack Eichel.
For Dallas, it’s a chance to flex it’s muscle at home. There are a trio of teams Dallas should be above (Winnipeg, Buffalo, and Toronto), while the Minnesota, Washington, and Chicago pose a challenge for Dallas to prove itself once again against playoff teams from this past season.
The difficult 3 in 4:
Three games in three nights isn’t allowed under the NHL CBA, so the four-day stretch between Jan. 7 and 10 could be the most physically taxing on the Stars.
Dallas will start the road trip in St. Louis against the rough-and-tumble Blues, while it will then head West to California. On back-to-back nights the Stars will play the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, two more teams that are built around size and physicality.
Last season in the playoffs Dallas was worn down by a physical St. Louis team. So this three-game stretch could be a litmus test for how the Stars would fair in physical playoff series.
The home stretch:
If the Central Division is as tight as it was last season, Dallas’ final three games, all at home, could be a key to locking up a better playoff position. The Stars will play the Arizona Coyotes, Nashville, and Colorado in a span of five days at home.
Before the final string of April home games, the Stars will travel to Carolina and Tampa Bay, giving the team five games in eight days.
Knowing how the last few seasons have gone, those games could make or break the year.