NEW YORK – All six Canadian NHL teams will play each other home and away next season for the first time since before the lockout.
The 2008-’09 schedule was released Thursday and features a new breakdown with more games between teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences.
That will allow each of the Canadian squads to face one another at least twice starting with Vancouver hosting Calgary on Oct. 9 – the first day games are played in North America.
The NHL regular season kicks off in Europe for a second straight year and will see a total of four games played overseas. Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers start things off on Oct. 4 with the first of two meetings in Prague while Ottawa and Pittsburgh play later that evening in Stockholm.
Detroit gets a chance to raise another Stanley Cup banner at Joe Louis Arena before its home opener against Toronto on Oct. 9. Other highlights for the Red Wings include two Stanley Cup rematches against the Penguins (at home Nov. 11, on the road Feb. 8) and an outdoor game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field on Jan. 1.
There are a few notable dates on the calendar in Montreal, where the Canadiens will become the first professional hockey team to celebrate a 100th birthday.
Montreal’s Bell Centre will host the NHL all-star game on Jan. 25 and the league’s entry draft June 25-26. The Habs open their season Oct. 10 in Buffalo before hosting the Maple Leafs the following night.
The Edmonton Oilers will be the last Canadian team to get going when they host the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 12 at Rexall Place.
The 1,230-game schedule will see teams play six divisional games, four games against the rest of the teams in their conference and 18 non-conference games. The 30 NHL teams all play each other at least once.
The regular season ends April 12 and the playoffs begin April 15.