As we all know, Florida opens on the road in New York on Oct. 4 then plays host to New Jersey on Oct. 6. I hope all the Jersey fans in SoFla are in town that week, because Florida's second home game is also against the Devils on Oct. 11. Those who know math know that will fulfill the Devils' two trips to South Florida. Quick, I know.
Anywho, here are some of the juicy games we've all been waiting for:
-- Roberto Luongo and the Fighting Luongos visit Sunrise on Feb. 1; Mike Keenan's Calgary Flames visit on Dec. 11. The Panthers visit Nashville -- Tomas Vokoun's return to Music City -- on Oct. 27.
-- Florida's first trip to Canada is an early one; Florida goes for three games (Mon, Tor, Ott) from Oct. 16-20.
-- Eight of Florida's first 11 games come against teams that made the playoffs last year.
-- The Cats are home for the holidays. Florida plays at Columbus on the day before Thanksgiving, but plays host to the Rangers on the following Friday. Florida also plays host to Carolina on Dec. 22, then doesn't play again until going to Atlanta on Dec. 27. The Cats will likely ring in the New Year at home before flying out New Year's Day. The Panthers make their first visit to New Jersey's new rink in lovely downtown Newark on Jan. 2.
-- The Panthers have a number of long homestands. The longest is seven games in March (6-20). The teams coming to town: Pitt, Atl, NYI, NYR, Atl, Car, TB. Florida also has a five-game homestand Nov. 29-Dec. 11 (Bos, Wash, Ott, NYI, Calg).
-- Longest roadtrip is five games from Feb. 2-10 (TB, Tor, Ott, Bos, Buf); Florida also has a four-game trip from Dec. 13-18 (STL, Det, Chi, Mon).
-- March should be good to the Panthers. Florida plays 12 games in March and nine of them are at home. The Panthers do end the season on a three-game roadie (Atl, Car, Wash).
-- Starting on March 8, Florida has 12 games remaining. Ten of those games are against Southeast Division rivals.
-- Three home games will be matinees, with 5 p.m. start times. Those games: Philly (Dec. 30), Colorado (Jan. 13) and Atlanta (March 16).
-- Here's the month-by-month break down: October (6 home, 6 road); November (6/8); December (8/5); January (6/7); February (6/9); March (9/3); April (0/3).
-- The Panthers will start weekday home games at 7:30, weekends (betcha it's sponsored by a certain bank) at 7.
-- Florida plays a rare leap-year game, playing host to Minnesota on Feb. 29. Florida has played in two such games, both ending in a 2-2 tie. The opponents were Washington (1996) and Chicago (2004).
-- Florida doesn't go west of the Central Time Zone, and only goes as far west as the
Mississippi River. Florida will visit the Central Division this season, with trips to
Columbus, St. Louis, Detroit, Nashville and Chicago. The Northwest Division (Minnesota,
Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Colorado) visits Sunrise.
-- The Panthers only have one home game competing with a Dolphins home game (Dec. 30) and one home game going against a University of Miami home game (Oct. 13).