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Jets open here vs. Canes

Normal start times for home games moved up 30 minutes

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PITTSBURGH -- However much the Winnipeg Jets like their second schedule -- 2012-13's was released on Thursday -- more than their first, one thing is as sure as summer road construction.

No matter how much the games are re-ordered, it's going to take a big push to eclipse the 84 points the Jets posted in 2011-12.

The NHL schedule maker has the Jets opening Season 2 at home with a pair of games, Oct. 13 in the afternoon against the Carolina Hurricanes followed by an Oct. 16 MTS Centre game that will be the first regular-season visit of captain Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks.

This season, the Jets' longest homestand will be five games, likely better than the pair of eights they had last winter.

On the road, the team has one six-game trip and three of five games, but through the collection it turns out that there are just 11 instances of back-to-back games, the second fewest in the NHL.

"We love playing at the MTS Centre and look forward to the same atmosphere and hopefully the same home-ice advantage we had last year," GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "But we have to be prepared right from the get-go, not just with home games.

"A lot of the conversations this off-season with the coaching staff has obviously been focused on the road as well. Lots of preparation left to do now."

The Jets were a shabby 14-22-5 away from home last season.

This season, they have drawn Detroit, Columbus and St. Louis as their three Western Conference opponents for extra games, to make a total of 82. They'll play home-and-home with each of those teams, with just one game apiece against the rest of the Western Conference.

The Jets will have eight home games this season against Canadian rivals, two each against Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa and single games against the Vancouver Canucks (Feb. 9) and Calgary Flames (Feb. 28).

Also of note this season, the Jets have changed their normal home game start times to 7 p.m., moving earlier by 30 minutes.

Of course there are exceptions, including a total of 15 afternoon games this coming season, plus several Hockey Night in Canada games that usually go at 6 p.m.

And one real oddity -- the Canucks and Jets begin at 9 p.m. on Feb. 9, the late HNIC game that is also part of Hockey Day in Canada. An NHL spokesman said Thursday isn't not known if that's the latest-ever local starting time for an NHL game, but it's likely close.

The number of HNIC games is not yet known, but it certainly appears it will be down from the 22 Winnipeg had last season, likely somewhere about 13.

"The NHL does a great job trying to ensure all teams' needs are met," Cheveldayoff said Thursday.

"You're dealt some things with buildings ... so different things affect when you're at home when you're on the road. At the end of the day, it all evens out and we're just looking forward to it."

Winnipeg will have 15 afternoon games in 2012-13.

"They're probably good at times," the GM said. "From a players' perspective, when you're in the NHL you know there are some varying times that do come into play."

For at least one more season, the Jets will remain in the Southeast Division, meaning they'll have a total of six games each against the Washington Capitals, Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

A New Year's Eve game tradition will also continue, with the Lightning this year's opponent on Dec. 31 at 4 p.m. at the MTS Centre.

All of this is contingent, of course, on the league and its players working out a new collective bargaining agreement. The current one expires on Sept. 15.

Flight plan: 47,876 miles

THE On The Forecheck Blog's summary of travel miles for 2012-13:

1. Dallas, 49,851 miles

2. Florida, 48,880 miles

3. Winnipeg, 47,876 miles

NOTE: The blog had the Jets in 10th place last year. Their total has increased about 3,200 miles for this season. Of note, there are seven teams close to their total, at more than 45,000 travel miles (Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Vancouver, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, San Jose).

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 22, 2012 C3

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