While the NHL schedule isn't expected to come out until the weekend or early next week, reports about key dates and other information have already been released. Putting those reports together will give us at least a glimpse of what the schedule might look like, so I've brought together some of the most specific information I could find to make a bit of a projection of a few key details here. We'll find out the specifics, though, in due time.
For starters, the season will begin on Jan. 19, and Ottawa will probably take on the Winnipeg Jets at 3 p.m. as part of a Hockey Night in Canada triple-header. Two days later, reports suggest they'll be in Ottawa for their home opener against the Florida Panthers, as revealed by Steve Lloyd on Twitter.
Aside from those specifics, we know also that it's a 48-game schedule, and that there will be no games against Western Conference opponents. According to Bob McKenzie, Ottawa will play five games against two divisional opponents (my guess is the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, if the league wants to help the Sens out [on and off the ice]) and four games against their other two divisional opponents. The schedule is filled out with three games against each of the other 10 Eastern Conference opponents.
Other notable dates, as put together on Jewels from the Crown, include a probable trade deadline of April 3 and--potentially--Free Agent Frenzy starting on July 5 (if it's indeed moved away from the Canada Day holiday, workers across the Great White North will accomplish absolutely nothing on Friday, July 5). The regular season is expected to be done by April 27.
There are 25 events taking place at Scotiabank Place over the 99-day regular season, including 13 Ottawa 67s games and one sure-to-be-incredible Sigur Rös concert (March 29, don't miss it). Those events will complicate the home schedule to no end, but I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a few double-headers alongside Ottawa 67s games, or even some 67s games being re-scheduled or bumped from the Bank (assuming, of course, there was a clause written into the 67s rental agreement with whatever holdings company is currently named on the Scotiabank Place title deed).
Let's go back to the home opener for a moment, though: What better opportunity than a home opener on a Monday night against the Florida Panthers to have a 'Fan Appreciation Night' with oodles of cheap tickets and other giveaways? Despite being the home opener, the game isn't likely to sell out without significant help from the team's front office; the fact that it's on a Monday night against Florida (a historically terrible draw) will not help combat the huge levels of apathy there are towards the NHL right now.
To push the issue, the Sens should do a bunch of things: Free parking, two-for-one tickets (with equivalent credits applied to the accounts of season ticket holders), 'Ready For More' T-shirts featuring Daniel Alfredsson's name and number on the back or other giveaways at the door, free hot dogs and/or drinks, and basically any other incentives imaginable. Maybe I'm pessimistic, but I think the team's going to have huge attendance problems this season (especially if the on-ice product isn't top-notch), so the battle to win back fans after the lockout needs to begin immediately. Doing so at a Panthers game on a Monday night won't be a huge bottom-line sacrifice for the team.
That's what we know right now. You can pencil these dates in for the time being, but have your pens ready by next week for the reveal of the full schedule.