For those holdover players from the Pittsburgh Penguins’ most recent Stanley Cup title in 2017, they will have a pretty good idea about the flavor of the pregame ceremony at their season opener. That’s because the Penguins will open the 2021-22 season Tuesday Oct. 12 at Tampa Bay, where the Lightning are expected to raise their banner after winning the Cup this summer.
That game will be part of an opening-night doubleheader on ESPN, with Seattle-Vegas as the nightcap — so the defending champs and the expansion club, with the Penguins and Vegas along for the ride. The NHL is returning to ESPN.
The NHL released team schedules Thursday.
Remember when the NHL set up the Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks as rivals to help promote an outdoor game? Well, that rivalry will resurface Saturday Oct. 16 when Chicago visits PPG Paints Arena for the Penguins’ home opener. Fingers crossed, a full house will be allowed.
The game against Chicago opens an eight-game homestand.
More fingers crossed, this will be the first full 82-game season since 2018-19. The next two seasons were truncated because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Penguins’ first game against the expansion Kraken will be Dec. 6 as part of a Western Canada trip. Seattle comes to Pittsburgh Jan. 27.
The NHL has not reached agreement to allow players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing but have left open that option with a potential Olympic break Feb. 7-22. If NHL players don’t go to Beijing, the schedule will be revised.
The All-Star weekend is scheduled for Feb. 4-5 in Las Vegas.
After going with realigned geographic divisions for 2020-21 (where the Penguins won the East Division), the NHL will revert to the pre-pandemic conferences and divisions, with the Penguins playing in the Metropolitan. The Penguins will face each Metropolitan Division opponent four times (two home/two road), each Western Conference opponent twice (one home/one road), and each Atlantic Division opponent three times. However, the Penguins travel to Carolina just once, and host the New York Islanders just once. Plus, half the Atlantic Division teams come to Pittsburgh twice and half host the Penguins twice. The teams that Pittsburgh hosts twice are Buffalo, Detroit, Florida and Montreal.
Although the “miniseries” model used during last season seemed to be popular, next season’s schedule reverts to a more normal format, without the two-game sets in the same city.
Start times and broadcast information beyond the Oct. 12 game will be released later.
The Penguins’ preseason schedule was released previously.
Here is the 2021-22 schedule, per the Pittsburgh Penguins.