This morning, the National Hockey League announced 27 re-scheduled dates and times for games in this season. The New Jersey Devils are involved in 13 of those games. These changes covers the already postponed three games that were supposed to be played in this past week. It also covers the now-postponed February 9 home game against Pittsburgh as well as nine other games to account for all of the changes to the schedule. Impressively, the NHL schedule-makers found a way to fit all of the changes in with the Devils’ season still ending on May 8 as originally planned back in January. The Devils’ official website now has the revised schedule posted in their schedule section and this post by Marc Ciampa covers what was changed in the Devils’ schedule.
The first thing to know is that the Devils are scheduled to play in Philadelphia on Thursday, February 11. This date was not changed among the league’s changes announced this morning. Incidentally, the 11th would be two weeks since the Devils last played (and hosted) Philadelphia and the previous game before their weekend in Buffalo. The NHL does announce who is on the COVID-19 Protocol List but not why or for how long. The teams are privy to more information than you and I. This is a sign that, with that information, the league believes the Devils may be able to ice a full roster by then. I hope they are right. I also hope the NHL, the Devils, and the Flyers are fine with this. There will be a lot of attention paid to that game with respect to the Coronavirus and testing of both teams afterwards. I do not know about you, but I will keep my fingers crossed, at least.
The second thing to know is that the changes in the schedule does not change the fact that the Devils are on the road until February 20. With the postponement of the game on the 9th, the Devils were planning to be away from home until then anyway. That road trip was expanded by a game - February 16 at Our Hated Rivals - but the Prudential Center rink will be unused until then. The last home game there was on January 28. Given the news about Binghamton’s season being delayed and how New Jersey’s outbreak was identified on the road, there should be enough time to secure the arena for home games.
The third thing to know is that the four postponed games have all been pushed out to March and April.
- The Postponed February 2 game at Pittsburgh is now on Sunday, March 21 at 1 PM. This bumped another game against Pittsburgh into April.
- The Postponed February 4 game at Pittsburgh is now on Tuesday, April 20 at 7 PM. This is the furthest a game was pushed out in this re-scheduled slate.
- The Postponed February 6 game against Our Hated Rivals is now on Thursday, March 4 at 7 PM.
- The Postponed February 9 game against Pittsburgh is now on Thursday, March 18 at 7 PM. The original date was scheduled at 6 PM in order for NBCSN to air it. I do not know if this or any other Devils game will appear on NBCSN this season.
The fourth thing to know is that not all of the re-scheduled games were pushed back. Some were pulled in to make it work with arena availability, team availability, travel arrangements, and ensuring no NHL team will have to play on three straight days, which is not allowed without NHLPA approval. Here are the other 9 changed games:
- The March 4 game at Our Hated Rivals is now on February 16, which comes in the middle of a two-game road series at Boston. That March 4 date is now filled in with a Devils home game against OHR.
- The February 22 game against Buffalo is now on Tuesday, February 23 at 7 PM. This one-day push back is in a three-way tie with the shortest change of all of the Devils’ re-scheduled games.
- The April 9 game at Buffalo is now on Thursday, February 25 at 7 PM. This is the furthest a game was pulled in for the Devils.
- The March 1 game against Washington is now on Sunday, February 28 at 3 PM. This means the Devils will open their season series against the Capitals with a home back-to-back set that weekend.
- The February 23 game against the Islanders is now on Tuesday, March 2 at 7 PM.
- The March 5 game against Our Hated Rivals is now on Saturday, March 6 at 1 PM. This is the second one-day push back among the Devils’ changes in game dates. This breaks up a back-to-back set against Our Hated Rivals and creates a back-to-back with NY at home and Washington on the road that weekend.
- The March 19 game against Pittsburgh is now on March 20 at 1 PM. This is the third one-day push back. It moves a back-to-back set with Pittsburgh on the 18th and 19th to a set on the 20th and 21st (the postponement make-up) with New Jersey hosting Pittsburgh on both dates.
- The March 21 game against Pittsburgh is moved to Friday, April 9 at 7 PM.
- The April 20 game against Philadelphia is moved to Thursday, April 9 at 7 PM.
Again, it is remarkable that these are the only changes. The end date of the season is still May 8 at the Islanders. The Week of Hate from April 12 to April 19 where the Devils will play Our Hated Rivals in four straight games is still intact. All of the Washington games will start on February 27 and end on April 4. It is still a full schedule. It is more compact than before, which was rather compact to begin with very few extended breaks. The gameplan will definitely involve rotating players in and out to avoid burnout and turning minor injuries into major ones. But that was known ahead of the 2021 season. While it is a more compact schedule, I will take this over extending the season by weeks or outright cancelling games.
The fifth and final thing to know is that all schedules are subject to change. The Devils are dealing with an apparent outbreak. For all we know, the 11th in Philadelphia may be off in a couple of days due to new information. Furthermore, we cannot be sure if any other team in the East will not be doing the same in the future. There is no guarantee that there will be no other postponements in the East Division. Any would have to lead to additional changes to the schedule of games. That concern will not end until the final NHL game is played for this season. Plan for the games, but change is always a possibility for various reasons (COVID-19, the weather these days, etc.).
Circling back to the start, I really hope the Devils players, staff, and personnel are healthy and able enough to return to action on this coming Thursday. I would be lying that I was not happy to see that we will get a return to Devils hockey. However, I really hope it does not turn out to be too soon of a return in hindsight. Unfortunately, we will not know that until it does happen - if it happens at all.