While Andy touched on this in the Daily Links, the NHL released the national TV schedule yesterday and all things are looking good for the Sabres. In regards to Versus games, the Sabres will appear on the network 9 times, an increase of 2 games from last season. Here is the list of games:
Tuesday October 26th vs. Philadelphia
Tuesday December 7th vs. Boston
Tuesday January 11th vs. Philadelphia
Tuesday January 18th vs. Montreal
Tuesday February 8th vs. Tampa Bay
Tuesday February 15th vs. Montreal
Tuesday March 1st vs. New York Rangers
Tuesday March 15th vs. Carolina
Wednesday March 30th vs. New York Rangers*
*The game on March 30th is part of Versus bonus coverage and should not be shown locally.
After the jump, more thoughts on the national schedule.
Versus has a total 78 games on their schedule, including 25 bonus games that will be shown on a day that is not Monday or Tuesday. Even with all of those games, three teams will not be represented on Versus: Ottawa, Edmonton, and Florida, and six teams show up on the schedule only once: Anaheim, Atlanta, Calgary, Nashville, Toronto, and Vancouver. There will be six teams that will show up on the schedule 11 times: Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, and Washington.
While the lack of Canadian teams on the American national schedule makes sense, doesn't it behoove the national carrier to at least show one Florida Panthers game. They should have the responsibility of showcasing all of the teams in their viewing area at least once so it gives viewers a chance to see all of the teams in the league if they are not able to purchase NHL Center Ice.
The NBC schedule produces the same type of scenario as it did last year, the possibility of seeing the Rangers or a Pennsylvania team the whole season. The Sabres appear on the NBC flex scheduling three times:
Sunday January 23rd vs. New York Islanders
Sunday February 20th vs. Washington
Sunday March 6th vs. Minnesota
The game on the January 23rd is scheduled against the Chicago/Philadelphia game and the game on March 6th is up against a Philadelphia/New York Rangers game so both of those will most likely be the flexed matchup. The game on February 20th will be apart of NBC regional coverage on Hockey Day in America, so that game will be shown regionally, not nationally. The other three games on that day are Philadelphia/Rangers, Pittsburgh/Chicago, and Detroit/Minnesota.
While it makes sense for NBC to show games that will increase ratings, it got to the point last year that every week was either Pittsburgh/Philly, Philly/Rangers, or Pittsburgh/Rangers. Those matchups appear five weeks out of nine that NBC is showing games, so that pattern could continue for national viewers. The Sabres happen to appear more often due to Ryan Miller who NBC is hoping still has some national draw after the 2010 Olympics.