The Ottawa Senators will finally launch their season tonight, along with three other teams, starting with a divisional game against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.
The Senators, who also play Saturday night in Toronto, will begin the 2013-14 campaign on a tough six-game road trip, including a tour through California.
They don't play their home opener until Oct. 17.
Players have expressed some confusion about the quirky start to their schedule, but the team can’t be upset about its health right now.
Coming off an injury-plagued season with several top players missing in action, newly minted captain Jason Spezza will lead a group of healthy soldiers into battle.
Spezza, who missed all but five regular season games last year due to back surgery, also missed most of the team’s pre-season games due to a groin injury.
But the team said it was saving their new captain for games that counted, and he will have a chance to prove he’s healthy with a brand new winger in Bobby Ryan.
Ryan, a 30-goal scorer in four different times, was acquired in July from the Anaheim Ducks for forwards Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen, plus a first-round draft pick.
The line, which also features fellow 30-goal scorer Milan Michalek, didn’t have many chances to find chemistry during training camp. But the trio knows it will take time.
The team’s other new big acquisition is second-line winger Clarke MacArthur, a former Toronto Maple Leaf.
MacArthur will play with Kyle Turris and he is expected to help fill the void left by longtime captain, Daniel Alfredsson, who has joined the new division rival in Detroit.
Buffalo, who lost their season opener to those same Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday, is in the midst of a rebuild. The team’s expectations are somewhat unclear in a difficult division created by the league’s realignment.
At the same time, Ottawa’s expectations are also a tad murky with new faces and new leadership. Though after overcoming last year’s onslaught of injuries, the team is expected to improve on that result.
The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets also kick off their seasons on Friday. The 26 other NHL teams have already played at least one game.