Blackhawks to open season Oct. 1 against Washington

Go ahead and circle October 1.

That's not only opening night for the Blackhawks, who will host the Washington Capitals, but it's also the night the Stanley Cup banner will be raised to the United Center roof for the second time in four years.

What a way to kick off the 2013-14 season for the Hawks, a season which features realigned divisions, an outdoor game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field on March 1, a pair of seven-game road trips, an extended Olympic break and start times for home games moving up to 7 p.m., although select games may begin earlier or later due to national television broadcasts.

Also new this season, the Blackhawks will meet each Eastern Conference team once at home and once on the road for a total of 32 out-of-conference games. Their first rematch with Boston will be Jan. 19 at home.

Under the NHL's realignment and new schedule format, the Hawks will play the other six Central Division teams a total of 29 games. They will play five games each against Colorado (three home/two away), Dallas (two home/three away), Minnesota (two home/three away), Nashville (two home/three away) and St. Louis (three home/two away), while facing Winnipeg four times (two home/two away).

Six of the Hawks' first eight games will be played at the UC and they will host a season-high, four-game homestand on two separate occasions (Jan. 12-19 and March 19-25).

They open their 41-game road slate on Oct. 9 when they travel to St. Louis. The Hawk's second of two seven-game road swings will be broken up by the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, which take place from Feb. 7-23 in Sochi, Russia.

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