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Top 5 Jets home games to see this season

Only 82 games stand between Jets, playoffs

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Jets fans will have to wait until March 1 to see the NHL champion L.A. Kings.

JAE C. HONG / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Jets fans will have to wait until March 1 to see the NHL champion L.A. Kings.

The Winnipeg Jets will play 82 games in five provinces and 16 states -- plus the District of Columbia -- over the course of 184 days next fall, winter and spring.

But with the release of the National Hockey League regular-season schedule on Sunday the question on everyone's lips in these parts remains this:

Will all those games between Oct. 9 and April 11 result in playoff games for this franchise for the first time since 2006-07 and for the first time in its rebirth in Winnipeg?

The Jets' 2014-15 schedule will see them open on the road to face the re-branded Arizona Coyotes in Glendale on Oct. 9. They'll also serve as the opponent for the San Jose Sharks' home opener two days later before wrapping up a tough three-game stretch to open the season with a visit to Los Angeles to face the Stanley Cup champion Kings the next night.

That start will then be followed up by the team's longest homestand of the season, a five-gamer from Oct. 17-26 that will feature visits by Nashville -- for the first real game of the year at the MTS Centre -- followed by Calgary, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Colorado.

The Jets' longest road trip comes Nov. 8-16, with stops in Ottawa, Montreal, Carolina, Nashville and Minnesota.

The schedule features the traditional New Year's Eve matinee -- with the New York Islanders here on Dec. 31 -- and there will be six weekend afternoon contests through the year.

Winnipeg will have 29 meetings with their Central Division rivals -- Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville and St. Louis -- with 14 of them here in River City.

Every fan has his/her favourite opponents or players they want to see live and in colour. Here's our take on five must-see home dates on the Jets 2014-15 schedule (in no particular order):

THE OPENER

Friday, Oct. 17 vs. Nashville

The Jets may open on the road, but there's nothing like the buzz in downtown Winnipeg when the curtain rises on a new campaign. The home side is 1-2 in its first three home openers in Winnipeg, losing 5-1 to Montreal in the first year; 4-1 to Ottawa in the lockout-shortened season and then beating Los Angeles 5-3 last year.

The Predators will roll into town for the first time in their existence without Manitoban Barry Trotz behind the bench. Trotz is now the boss in Washington with Peter Laviolette now in charge of the Preds.

Interestingly, in their final three years in Atlanta the Thrashers won their home openers.

Sooner or later, that ugly home-debut trend will change here.

NEW YEAR'S EVE

Wednesday, Dec. 31 vs. New York Islanders

The New Year's Eve contest dates back to Jets 1.0 and has been kept alive. It's a fun night and, with a 4 p.m. puck drop, serves as a dandy warmup to the farewell to 2014 and welcoming of 2015.

THE CHAMPS VISIT

Sunday, March 1 vs. Los Angeles

The Jets meet the reigning Stanley-Cup champions in just the third game of the season, but fans here won't see the Kings until Game 63 in a Sunday afternoon contest. The Jets were 1-2 against the Kings last year, splitting two meetings in Winnipeg and losing in L.A.

J.T. COMES HOME

Friday, Feb. 6 vs. Chicago

It doesn't get old for Winnipeggers to tip their collective toques to arguably the most-complete player on the planet because Jonathan Toews is one of our own.

The real hard part for Jets faithful? The Blackhawks bludgeoned the Jets a couple of times on home ice last year, winning 5-1 and 6-3.

THE LEAFS/HABS JERSEYS COME OUT

Saturday, Jan. 3 vs. Toronto and Thursday, March 26 vs. Montreal

There are generations of hockey fans all across this country who were born and bred either Leafs or Canadiens fans.

That's what has always made visits from these two iconic franchises so special.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 23, 2014 C2

History

Updated on Monday, June 23, 2014 at 7:28 AM CDT: Replaces photo

7:46 AM: Corrects info re: opener on Oct. 17

10:21 AM: Rejigs head; format changes

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