The Florida Panthers came within one point of making the Stanley Cup playoffs last season.
As coach Bob Boughner prepares for his second season at the helm of the franchise — and the Panthers prepare to make a playoff push in their 25th anniversary season — the Panthers now know exactly what their road to the postseason looks like.
The NHL released the full schedules for the 2018-19 season on Thursday.
Some key facts to know about the Panthers' 82-game slate:
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▪ The Panthers are one of the four teams who will wait until Oct. 6 to play their first game, three days after the league season gets underway. Florida will play at the Tampa Bay Lightning on that day.. The Panthers' home opener is Oct. 11 against Columbus.
▪ The Panthers will play a pair of games against the Winnipeg Jets in Finland on Nov. 1 and 2.
▪ The Panthers' longest road trip and home stand will come back-to-back. Florida has a six-game road trip from Nov. 13-23 during which it will face Philadelphia, Columbus, the New York Rangers, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Carolina. That trip is followed immediately by an eight-game homestand from Nov. 24-Dec. 8. The Panthers will host the Blackhawks, Devils, Ducks, Sabers, Lightning, Bruins, Avalanche and Rangers in that stretch.
▪ Eight of the Panthers' final 13 games are on the road, but they close with a three-game stretch at the BB&T Center.
The Panthers finished the 2017-18 season with 96 points — the third-most in franchise history — and went 25-8 after the All-Star break.
This year, Boughner is hoping for the Panthers to replicate that type of success throughout the entire season, not just in a desperation push as the regular season winds down.
They likely have the pieces to make that happen.
The Panthers are expected to return their core from last year. All-Star Aleksander Barkov (27 goals, 51 assists, 78 points), Vincent Trocheck (31 goals, 44 points, 75 points), Jonathan Huberdeau (27 goals, 42 assists, 69 points) and Evgeni Dadonov (28 goals, 37 assists, 65 points) lead the way up front. Defenders Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle lead the blue line.