As mentioned in this morning's Chum Bucket, the NHL sent a memo to all 30 teams yesterday informing them that the 2013 regular season will be 48 games in length and likely begin on January 19th, although a start date of the 15th remains a possibility should the new CBA be ratified by the Board of Governors and NHLPA in short order.
An official schedule likely won't be released until the ratification process concludes but that doesn't mean we can't begin speculating on who the Sharks might face when the season begins sometime next week. The opening night opponent to bet on would seem to be the Dallas Stars.
According to Defending Big D, Stars President and CEO Jim Lites said he expects his team to begin their schedule on the 19th at American Airlines Center. Based on the previously established 2012-13 season schedule, Dallas was slated to host the Sharks that very night and the league's schedule-makers will presumably attempt to keep as many dates as it can intact. It would be a great way for the Pacific Division clubs to renew their rivalry, although that might prove a bit difficult from the Sharks' end of things with Steve Ott now in Buffalo and Mike Ribeiro a member of the Capitals. Still, attempting to contain a line featuring Jamie Benn and Jaromir Jagr with a potentially depleted defense corps should be enough to rekindle those flames of hatred.
While HP Pavilion won't be occupied on the 19th, the Globetrotters and Monday Night Raw are in town the next two nights meaning the Sharks could begin the season with a short road trip before a home opener later in the week. Surveying the rest of the division, Jobing.com arena appears to be unsurprisingly event-less while Staples Center is booked from the 19th through the 27th and Honda Center is busy through the 20th. Whenever the Sharks' home opener takes place it assuredly won't be the next hockey game tentatively scheduled to be played at the Tank, a January 31st contest against the Bruins, since the 48-game schedule will exclusively feature intra-conference opponents.