April 7, 2012; Winnipeg, MB, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Keith Aulie (3) and Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler (26) collide during the second period at the MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-US PRESSWIRE

What Will The Southeast Be Up To Come Opening Night?

April 26, 2012; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers players celebrate scoring the tying goal against the New Jersey Devils in the third period of game seven of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at BankAtlantic Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

 

October 11th, 2012, opening night for the National Hockey League. No matter what team you root for, that night you are just excited, whether your team wins or loses. Obviously you would want your team to come out victorious in their first game of the season, but you know that no matter what happens that night, that we have a long six months of ups and downs ahead of us. Unfortunately this year’s opening night might be in jeopardy as the league is ready to lockout for an unbelievable third time under Commissioner Gary Bettman. Despite the possibility of yet another work stoppage, I am confident that the league and the players will come to a new collective bargaining agreement, which will give everyone the opportunity to watch in my opinion the one of the best sports in the world.

If opening night does indeed occur and I am confident that it will, it will mark the beginning of what will be a long journey for the Panthers as they look to win the Southeast Division title for consecutive years. The Southeast Division is one of the, if not the most improved division in the entire league. With the addition of Jordan Staal to the Hurricanes and Mike Ribiero going to Washington, the Capitals and the Hurricanes are poised to give the Panthers a run for their money. Opening night is one of the best nights in all of sports, not just hockey, so below we’re going to take a look at what the teams of the Southeast Division will be doing during opening night.

April 25, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; The Washington Capitals surround center Matt Hendricks (26) after a goal during the first period in game seven of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Let’s start with Washington Capitals. The Capitals open the season against the Eastern Conference Champions, the New Jersey Devils. The game takes place on Friday October 12th, 2012, and for the Caps, opening night will be a little different. For the past four seasons the Capitals have been sitting atop the Southeast and year after year opening night consisted of a banner ceremony. This year is a little different. The Caps will start the season off with a bit of a new look roster, with the loss of forward Alex Semin and goalie Tomas Vokoun. Fortunately for the Caps they were easily able to replace those roster spots, with the signing of Mike Ribiero and of course the playoff surprise from last year, goaltender Braden Holtby. Unlike the Caps, their opponent, the New Jersey Devils will get to raise a banner in their stadium, however, what was one of the best players last year; Zach Parise will not be present as he went onto leave the Devils in free agency, signing with the Minnesota Wild. This matchup is going to be a good one as both teams matchup fairly good against each other. I know it is a little early for predictions as injuries do happen, but if these two teams enter opening night with the roster’s they have now, I believe that the Washington Capitals will be victorious winning in a close game. SCORE PREDICTION- WASHINGTON 3 NEW JERSEY 2

April 7, 2012: Sunrise, FL, USA; Carolina Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller looks on during the second period against he Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Next up we have the Carolina Hurricanes. In my opinion they are easily the most improved team in the division with the signings of Staal and Semin. The Hurricanes open up the season against division rival Winnipeg Jets. This game takes place on Saturday October 13th, 2012. Now unfortunately for these two teams they were excluded from postseason play last year as they both finished at the bottom of the division standings (Carolina 5th, Winnipeg 4th). This season is a bit different; both teams went out in the offseason with the mindset of improving their roster to make their presence felt in the division. While the Hurricanes had a better offseason, the Jets did make moves to improve their roster as well. However, I don’t see this game going in favor of Winnipeg. I truly do believe that the Hurricanes will make the playoffs next season and their march for the postseason begins on October 13th. I believe that they will go into Winnipeg and spoil opening nights for the Jets fans. SCORE PREDICTION- CAROLINA 3 WINNIPEG 1

Last, but certainly not least, the Florida Panthers. The Panthers open the season against longtime division rival, Tampa Bay Lightning. For the Panthers it’s going to be a bit of a surreal moment. That night will mark the first night the Panthers are going to raise up a division banner. After a decade of dreadfulness, the players have finally given the fans and the franchise something to cheer about. All of last year’s effort will be put on display on October 13th. While the Panthers didn’t do much in the offseason to improve their roster, the Tampa Bay Lightning did. This past offseason, the Lightning rebuilt their defense and their biggest signing was Flyer, Matt Carle. The Lightning surely attacked their main need in the offseason; however, their goalie situation still remains a big question mark. I don’t want to sound bias or anything, but how can the Panthers lose? They have everything going in the right direction for them and for a franchise that was down in the dumps for a decade, winning a division championship will do a lot for this franchise. With the amount of electricity and noise that will be radiating throughout the Bank Atlantic Center that night, I just don’t see how the Panthers will lose the game. SCORE PREDICTION FLORIDA 2 TAMPA BAY 1

Well, there ya have it, my predictions for opening night for the Southeast Division on opening night. I would love to see what you guys think, so please comment below telling me your predictions! I know it’s early but I would still love to hear what you guys think!!!!

Thanks For Reading!

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Tags: Alex Semin Braden Holtby Carolina Hurricanes Florida Panthers Gary Bettman Jordan Staal Matt Carle Mike Ribiero Minnesota Wild Opening Night Philadelphia Flyers Southeast Division Tampa Bay Lightning Tomas Vokoun Washington Capitals Winnipeg Jets Zach Parise

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