Capitals to begin 2016-17 season against rivals in Pittsburgh

WASHINGTON — Mark Oct. 13 on your calendar.

The Washington Capitals begin the 2016-17 NHL season in the last place they may want to be: in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to watch the Penguins raise their Stanley Cup banner. Will the Pens have Alex Ovechkin and company out on center ice to rub their noses in the banner before raising it? Turnabout becomes fair play Nov. 16 when Sidney Crosby and crew drop by the District.

Both early games against Pittsburgh mark the beginning of schedule trends: six of the Caps’ first nine games are away from Verizon Center, including a four-game Western Canada swing. The November showdown starts a five-game home stand that lasts through Nov. 25. Head Coach Barry Trotz’s team gets to enjoy its Thanksgiving turkey in familiar surroundings.

The toughest part of the schedule for the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners? Perhaps a six-game stretch from Jan. 11 to Jan. 21 when they face not only Pittsburgh twice but also three other teams that notched at least 100 points this past season: Chicago, Dallas and St. Louis. They also play four games (the last three on the road) against the Stars, Stanley Cup runner-up San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim in early March.

The defending Metropolitan Division champions conclude the regular season at home against reigning Atlantic Division winner Florida on April 9. But as Caps fans have learned, the real season begins later that week.

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