With the NHL unveiling the schedule for the 2018-19 season, the countdown to another year can officially begin. And after opening night is over, here are 10 games to keep an eye on next season.
On the heels of announcing the complete list of home openers on Wednesday afternoon, the NHL officially unveiled the entire schedule for the 2018-19 campaign on Thursday, giving hockey fans worldwide the opportunity to mark up their calendars with a few can’t-miss dates for the upcoming season.
So, from battles against former teams to could-be emotional returns home, here are 10 dates — and 10 games — that should be circled on your calendar for the 2018-19 season:
DAHLIN ERA BEGINS IN BUFFALO AGAINST BRUINS
Boston Bruins at Buffalo Sabres — Oct. 4, 2018
‘Fallin’ for Dahlin’ is over and the Sabres will get their first glimpse of the presumptive No. 1 overall draft pick and could-be savior in meaningful action when their season kicks off at home against the Bruins. No doubt the Buffalo faithful would love to see Dahlin have a Will Butcher-esque type debut, too. The New Jersey Devils rookie defenseman registered three assists in his first career game. That would be one way to kick off what the Sabres hope can be a Calder Trophy-worthy campaign.
OILERS, DEVILS START SEASON IN SWEDEN
Edmonton Oilers vs. New Jersey Devils — Oct. 6, 2018
Last season, the NHL’s Global Series featured a back-to-back set between the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators, but this time around, the first game played on European soil will be a one-off as the Oilers and Devils do battle in Gothenburg, Sweden, at the Scandinavium, the Swedish League home of Frolunda HC. And while the regular season tilt is a one-off, it’ll be the third game and third location of the Global Series as the Devils are set for a pre-season contest in Bern, Switzerland, against the Swiss League’s SC Bern, and the Oilers will end their pre-season in Cologne, Germany, against German League side Kolner Haie.
GOLDEN KNIGHTS GET EARLY CHANCE AT VENGEANCE
Vegas Golden Knights at Washington Capitals — Oct. 10, 2018
In their inaugural season, Golden Knights fans watched on as their team fell three wins short of winning the Stanley Cup, but Vegas will get its chance to knock Washington down a peg in the early season when the two teams square off in the second week of the campaign. Of course, it’s not as if it’s going to be the same two teams doing battle. The Golden Knights’ roster could see some changes this summer — the addition of Erik Karlsson, perhaps? — and the Capitals have already said sayonara to coach Barry Trotz and chances are a few other players change homes before next season kicks off.
JETS, PANTHERS PLAY PAIR IN FINLAND
Winnipeg Jets vs. Florida Panthers — Nov. 1-2, 2018
The Global Series contests that will somewhat mimic last season’s contests will again be set in November, with the Jets and Panthers heading to Helsinki, Finland, for a two-game set at Hartwall Arena. The pair of games will signal a couple of major homecomings, as Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine and Florida’s Aleksander Barkov will be back on home soil for what will possibly be the only Finnish-based NHL games of their respective careers. Meanwhile, if Joel Armia should re-sign with the Jets and Henrik Borgstrom earn his spot on the Panthers’ roster, the pair of games could feature four Finns.
HOFFMAN’S FIRST CLASH WITH THE SENATORS
Ottawa Senators at Florida Panthers — Nov. 11, 2018
By the time the draft rolls around, there will be more movement around the NHL, which will mean more opportunities for traded players to exact some revenge on the clubs that sent them packing. For the time being, though, the most notable former-player-takes-aim-at-old-team matchup on the slate for next season is Mike Hoffman’s first outing against the Senators. Ottawa tried to keep Hoffman out of the division, but now the 20-goal guy gets his chance to stick it to the Senators on a regular basis. In fact, 10 days after his first shot at Ottawa, Hoffman will get his second go-round.
ISLANDERS RETURN TO NASSAU COLISEUM
Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Islanders — Dec. 1, 2018
As they begin their gradual exit from the Barclays Center and into a yet-to-be-built home, the Islanders will return to their old stomping grounds, Nassau Coliseum. The first trip back to Long Island will come on Dec. 1 when they host the Blue Jackets, but it won’t be the last time they’re back in the building. In fact, they added eight more games to the Nassau Coliseum schedule for the upcoming season, and they’ll now play three games there in December, four in January, three in February, nine in March and one in April.
BRUINS, BLACKHAWKS HEAD BACK OUTSIDE
Boston Bruins at Chicago Blackhawks — Jan. 1, 2019
The seemingly annual tradition that is the Blackhawks playing in an outdoor game. This will be the seventh time Chicago plays an outdoor contest and the fourth time that they’ll be the home team. That said, the game won’t be playing in Illinois. Rather, the Blackhawks will host the Bruins at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind., which will make for the second consecutive season there’s an outdoor game played at a neutral site. And given the size of the stadium — it seats 77,000-plus — Notre Dame could be the site of the second-largest outdoor game in NHL history.
BARRY TROTZ’S WASHINGTON HOMECOMING
New York Islanders at Washington Capitals — Jan. 18, 2019
While the bulk of the Capitals’ roster will celebrate in front of the Capital One Center faithful on the season’s opening night, coach Barry Trotz, who helped guide the franchise to its first Stanley Cup, will finally get his warm welcome home from the Washington faithful in mid-January. Trotz’s resignation from the Capitals and subsequent hiring by the Islanders came across a span of three days, so he likely hasn’t had much time to think about what his return to Washington could hold. It could be a teary-eyed return, too.
PETERS SQUARES OFF AGAINST FAMILIAR FACES
Carolina Hurricanes at Calgary Flames — Jan. 22, 2019
Trotz wasn’t the first coach to resign this off-season. That honor went to Bill Peters, who had an out clause in his contract earlier this summer and chose to exercise it with an eye on heading back to his old stomping grounds. The Three Hills, Alta., native was intrigued by the opening in Calgary, signed on with the Flames and now he’ll get set to do battle against the franchise he called home for the past four seasons for the first time in late January. There will be a slight master vs. student element to the outing, too, with Peters coaching opposite former assistant Rod Brind’Amour, who’s now the bench boss in Carolina.
LONG WAIT FOR EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL REMATCH
Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning — March 16, 2019
The Eastern Conference final needed all seven games to decide who would earn the opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup, and with the Lightning coming up one win short, they’ll have had an entire off-season and more to stew. In fact, it won’t be until mid-March that Tampa Bay finally gets the chance at payback against Washington, and that will come in the form of three games in two weeks between the Lightning and Capitals.
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