- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2002

Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee thinks this year's schedule "is definitely better than last year's."

The Caps start the season at home Oct.11 against Nashville and close their 29th campaign at home against Pittsburgh on April 5. In between, there are road trips of eight, six and four games and another stretch where the team plays eight out of 10 on the road. The Caps opened last season by playing nine of their first 11 games on the road.

Nonetheless, a league source, speaking with the understanding he would not be identified, said yesterday that "we did what we feel is a pretty decent job for Washington under the circumstances. We get a list of available dates for [MCI Center], and there isn't a lot to work with. I hear the NBA has the same problem."

Actually, McPhee did not appear overly upset with the bunching of road games, which includes a six-game swing across Canada in March.

"At least the March trip has some symmetry to it," he said. "We go right across Canada, which means we're not fighting to get through customs every other day. We also like the fact that we're not heading out west right away; the last two long March trips we've taken have turned out pretty well. And on that early trip, we've got a new coach and this will be a good time to build some chemistry."

Washington will have two four-game homestands, one each in January and February. Washington played no more than three games at home in any stretch last season.

The dates that have become traditional Washington home dates have been retained, including Nov.27 and 29 surrounding Thanksgiving and five out of seven dates during the Christmas holidays.

Twenty of Washington's 82 games will be against Southeast Division opponents. The Caps will not play in Detroit, Nashville or St. Louis; Anaheim, Chicago, Edmonton and Vancouver will not come to Washington. The club will play 18 sets of back-to-back games.

The league itself opens its 86th season on Oct.9 and ends it April6, the earliest finish since 1991-92 and eight days earlier than last season, when the schedule was compressed to include a two-week break for the Salt Lake Olympic Games.

The league will pause after games of Jan.30 for the All-Star Game on Feb.2 at the home of the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla.


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