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Back-to-Backs Need to Get Back

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Fourteen back-to-back games are twelve too many.

The Arizona Coyotes will take on the New York Islanders tonight in their third back-to-back in two weeks.
The Arizona Coyotes will take on the New York Islanders tonight in their third back-to-back in two weeks.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight the Arizona Coyotes will be playing their second game in a back-to-back set for the third time in two weeks. According to HockeyGearHQ.com, the Coyotes will have played back-to-back 13 times by season's end.

The average NHL team will play 14 of these games. The Los Angeles Kings and Winnipeg Jets have the least at 9, while the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets have the most at 19.

Playing back-to-back increases the risk of injury to players, who are competing in a fatigued state, in addition to giving an inherent advantage to the team that didn't play the night before.

True, these guys are professional hockey players. True, they have amazing training staffs. True, they travel more comfortably than you and I do. But, in a day-and-age focused on a faster and more open game, playing twice in two nights increases fatigue, which increases the chance of injury.

The question that begs an answer is in a season that spans 193 days from October to Mid-April, why are teams playing back-to-back games? Poor scheduling.

For example, let’s look at the start of the Coyotes’ season. They opened against the Jets at home on October 9th, a Thursday, and then took on the Kings two days later.

They didn't play again until the Edmonton Oilers came to town on Wednesday October 15th and then were off again until that Saturday against the St. Louis Blues. It took ten days for the Coyotes to play their first four games.

The NHL regular season is 82 games, which is 82 days. If you give each team one day off after each game for travel or rest, you get 164 total. The Coyotes' current season will take 184 days to complete, which leaves an additional 20 off days. That leaves plenty of time for additional holidays and CBA-mandated breaks.

Back-to-back games certainly have a place because they force a new level of competition from the teams, but to have 14 is probably 12 too many.