DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings’ inaugural season in the Eastern Conference will begin with a new divisional foe, the Buffalo Sabres.
The Wings will open the 2013-14 regular season when they host the Sabres at Joe Louis Arena on Oct. 2 at 8 p.m.
They end the season on April 13 on the road against former division rival St. Louis at 2 p.m.
In March, the NHL’s board of governors approved the new four-division realignment plan that will have the Wings playing in a Atlantic Division with three Original Six teams, Boston, Montreal and Toronto, along with Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay.
“I like the travel,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Some of my favorite cities in the world are Toronto, Boston and Montreal.”
Columbus also moved from the West to the East, while Winnipeg is now in the West.
The Eastern Conference will house 16 of the league’s 30 teams.
The other divisions would look this this: Metropolitan Division (Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington), while the Western Conference will be made up of the Central Division (Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg) and Pacific Division (Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver).
The league will also shut down for two weeks this season so players can participate in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“The decision to participate in the (Winter Games) in Sochi was in many ways a difficult one, but one that we know will be well received by our players and, most importantly, by the vast majority of our fans and sports fans everywhere,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
The NHL will break on Feb. 9 and return to play Feb. 26.
“The players are very pleased that an agreement has been reached that will allow the world’s best hockey players to compete at the Winter Games in February,” NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr said in a statement. “Having the opportunity to wear their nation’s sweater in Sochi is something the players look forward to.”
NHL players have participated in the past four Olympics, beginning in Nagano, Japan.
With the players taking part in the Olympics there will be no All-Star Game this season, which was scheduled to be played in Columbus.
All be it a year late due to the lockout that shortened last season, the Wings will host Toronto at the Big House in Ann Arbor on New Year’s Day at 1 p.m. in the annual Winter Classic.
“I just remember how I felt when they announced it,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said last year. “When I went to the Big House and went on the field for the press conference there. It was real exciting. It will be a great game and it will be a division game now as well. So it’s a big game with a lot of people and it will be a lot of fun.”
A crowd of at least 105,000 is expected, which would stand as the world record for attendance at a hockey game.
The Winter Classic’s festivities might include two alumni games on New Year’s Eve at Comerica Park in Detroit, along with American Hockey League, college, high school and youth hockey games over a two-week period leading up to the Winter Classic.
This will be the sixth time the Winter Classic has been played and second time the Wings have played in one.
Detroit faced the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009 at Wrigley Field before a crowd of 40,818. The Wings beat their hosts 6-4.
This will be Toronto’s first Winter Classic.
The biggest benefit the Wings have moving to the Eastern Conference will be their limited trips to the West Coast, just seven of their regular season games will begin at 9 p.m. or later.
“We’ve traveled back and forth, across the United States quite a bit,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “To move to the East I think that would be a lot of fun to play a lot of games in the Eastern Time Zone. It would be great for our fans too, not having to stay up until all hours of the night to watch us. I think the travel sometimes takes years off of all of our lives. It’s one of those things that you have to deal with.”
Detroit makes it’s only trip to Western Canada starting Oct. 30 at Vancouver, then hit Calgary (Nov. 1), Edmonton (Nov. 2) and Winnipeg (Nov. 4).