Hurricanes get a ‘fair’ shake in 2018-19 NHL schedule

Carolina opens with three of four at PNC Arena, will play home game during the State Fair for the first time in 16 years

Hurricanes players lineup on the blue line before the game against the Minnesota Wild on opening night at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Minnesota Wild 5-4 in the shoot out. (James Guillory / USA TODAY Sports)

RALEIGH — After releasing each team’s home opener on Wednesday, the NHL unveiled the rest of the 2018-19 schedule on Thursday — and it seems favorable to the Carolina Hurricanes.

After years of prolonged October road trips — often to start the season — the Hurricanes will play three of their first four games at PNC Arena, have just a three-game road trip during the neighboring North Carolina State Fair, and even play an afternoon game during the final Saturday of the fair.

The season opener will be against the New York Islanders, led by their new coach and recently crowned Stanley Cup champion Barry Trotz, on Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. The Hurricanes travel to Columbus the next night, then play two more games at home before the fair begins Oct. 11.

The three-game fair road trip — played over just four days in Minnesota, Winnipeg and Tampa Bay — is followed by a 1 p.m. home game on Oct. 20 against Colorado. It’s the first time since 2002 the Hurricanes will have a home game during the fair.

For all the traffic nightmares that will likely create, it’s a win for a team that in recent years has struggled to get off to good starts, due in part to the dreaded “State Fair Road Trip.” The last time Carolina won more games in October than it lost? The 2007-08 season.

While the Hurricanes avoided a road-weary October, there are plenty of tough stretches in the schedule.

The Hurricanes’ busiest month will be, per usual, in March, when the team plays 16 games in 31 days. Ten of the 16 games will be parts of back-to-back sets, but Carolina will get nine dates at PNC Arena during the season’s last full month. In all, the Hurricanes will play 17 sets of back-to-back games.

The longest road trip will be in February, when the team plays five games in eight days, starting Feb. 5 in Pittsburgh and ending Feb. 12 in Ottawa. Just prior to that, Bill Peters — who triggered a clause in his contract in April that voided the final year of his coaching contract — will return to Raleigh for the first time with his new team, the Calgary Flames, on Feb. 3 for a 2 p.m. game. Carolina visits Calgary on Jan. 22.

The Hurricanes’ five-day bye week will be Jan. 27-31, but becomes an eight-day respite for most of the team as it comes directly after the All-Star break on Jan. 24-26.

The season ends with eight games against Eastern Conference teams, closing with games at Toronto (April 2), home against New Jersey (April 4) and the season finale at Philadelphia (April 6).

Other highlights from the schedule include:

  • The return of the New Year’s Eve game, a 6 p.m. start against Philadelphia
  • Visits from the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals on Dec. 14 and March 28
  • Eight of 12 games in January will be on the road
  • Twenty-seven home games played on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays
  • A season-long six-game homestand from Nov. 10-23 featuring three Original 6 teams (Detroit, Chicago and Toronto)