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Florida Panthers, Dallas Stars opener not happening Thursday

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The BB&T Center in Sunrise will remain empty Thursday as the Florida Panthers 2021 season opener was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Dallas Stars. // @GeorgeRichards

On Thursday morning, the Florida Panthers should be taking the ice for a quick workout before opening their 2021 season against the Dallas Stars later that night.

Only due to a COVID-19 breakout within the Stars organization, the opener has been postponed.

Instead of playing a game on Thursday, the Panthers will take the day off.

And, not only will Thursday’s game not be played, but neither will the rematch on Friday. Dallas’ third game in Tampa has also been postponed due to the many players in the protocol. 

The new NHL scheduling and divisional realignment finds the Panthers and Stars within the Central this season. 

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They will play each other, and the other teams in the division, eight times this season.

The NHL has not announced when these first two games will be made up (or whether Dallas will play its next scheduled game Tuesday at Tampa Bay) but it likely will, sometime down the road.

Making up two games does not sound like a big deal — we see baseball teams do it all the time — but in this hockey season, it most certainly is.

Finding a spot for those games would make an already compressed 2021 scheduled even more cramped for both teams. Days are coming off the calendar, but those 56 games still have to be played.

Looking at the Panthers schedule, it is hard to figure out a time in which these two games will get shoehorned in.

The Panthers now open the season Sunday night against Chicago before playing the Blackhawks again Tuesday.

Following Tuesday, the Panthers only have 10 instances during this season in which they have consecutive days without a game.

When the Panthers have three consecutive days off Feb. 1-3, Dallas will be in Columbus for a two-game set.

What could happen is some other games get rearranged — with only a handful of teams hosting fans, it’s not like tickets have to be refunded — to try and jam in a game here or there.

The two teams could also find themselves playing in an empty arena on neutral ice depending on their travel schedule. The NHL could also decide just to put these games at the very end of the schedule and delay the start of the playoffs by a few days.

After all, more games are expected to be postponed around the league. Perhaps the week of May 9-15 could serve as a catch-all.

Regardless, all we know is while the NHL opened its season Wednesday night and will kick into full gear Thursday, the Panthers and Stars remain on the sideline watching on television.

And, based on how things are going, they probably won’t be the only ones to be affected by postponements — just the first.

“Expect change,” Florida coach Joel Quenneville said.

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