With six regular-season games scheduled for Europe and two more slated for frozen football fields closer to home, the NHL continues to take its product to a variety of settings.
There are 1,230 games in all on the 2010-11 schedule. Here’s a closer look at 10 worth watching:
Oct. 7, 2010—Calgary at Edmonton: The opening night of the season, a classic rivalry, the debut of No. 1 draft pick Taylor Hall … what’s not to like? Emotions are bound to be running high at Rexall Place as the optimistic Oilers look to put last year’s dreadful campaign behind them.
Oct. 20, 2010—Vancouver at Chicago: The 2010 Stanley Cup banner will already be hanging from the rafters at United Center by the time Vancouver comes to town—a reminder for both teams of last season’s playoffs. Chicago has eliminated the Canucks the last two springs, and Vancouver will inevitably be looking to measure itself against the Blackhawks once again.
Oct. 30, 2010—Buffalo at Dallas: The busiest night of the entire season sees 28 teams in action, with many of the games like this one involving unusual matchups between squads from different conferences. This is a redux of the 1999 Stanley Cup final and a rare chance to see the Sabres and Stars on the same ice surface.
Dec. 2, 2010—San Jose at Ottawa: Maybe Senators fans are completely over the Dany Heatley saga. After all, roughly 15 months will have passed when the star winger makes his return to Scotiabank Place in a Sharks sweater. This is the night we find out definitively how they feel.
Jan. 1, 2011—Washington at Pittsburgh (at Heinz Field): Sidney Crosby gets his second taste of the Winter Classic spotlight—an event that has become a television ratings bonanza in the U.S. He’ll be pitted against Washington counterpart Alex Ovechkin as the NHL looks to play up their rivalry once again.
Jan. 23, 2011—Atlanta at Tampa Bay: Not a sexy matchup by any means. But it will be notable because it kicks off a 12-game homestand for Steve Yzerman’s Lightning—the longest of any team all season. Following this game, Toronto, Philadelphia, Washington, St. Louis, Buffalo, Carolina, Philadelphia (again), Detroit, Florida, Phoenix and New Jersey will all come through Tampa before the team boards another airplane.
Jan. 30, 2011—Western Conference vs. Eastern Conference (at Carolina’s RBC Center): The NHL’s all-star game returns after a one-year hiatus because of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. While the game itself rarely produces much of note, the talk surrounding it will be interesting. Many are starting to believe the all-star format has gone stale.
Feb. 20, 2011—Montreal at Calgary (at McMahon Stadium): The NHL goes outdoors in Canada for the first time since a bitterly cold evening at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium in 2003. Calgary is known for its fickle weather patterns, so meteorologists will receive as much attention as the Habs and Flames in the run-up to this game. As a bonus for those watching at home, this game will be televised in 3-D.
March 10, 2011—Montreal at St. Louis: Do you think any Habs fans will make the trip to Missouri for this one? It will be the first time Montreal faces goaltender Jaroslav Halak since dealing him to St. Louis over the summer. Halak remains extremely popular among the Habs faithful after last year’s playoff run.
April 9, 2011—Toronto at Montreal: The final game of the regular season for both teams. Will it be another sad occasion for Leafs fans or might it be a prelude to an elusive post-season berth? Perhaps the team’s fate will be decided with this game at the Bell Centre on the final Saturday night of the season.