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NHL Home Openers: Capitals’ banner-raising highlights start of 2018-19 regular season

The 2018-19 NHL season will kick off on Oct. 3 with the Washington Capitals raising their first-ever Stanley Cup championship banner to the rafters when they host the Boston Bruins.

Starting to get that hockey itch yet? Well, it’s going to be a while before the NHL helps you scratch it, but at least the league has put a date on when the nightmare of a hockey-less summer will come to a close.

On Wednesday, the NHL announced the complete list of 31 home openers for the 2018-19 campaign, and while the complete schedules for the coming season won’t be unveiled until Thursday, there are several contests that we already can’t wait to see. From banner-raising ceremonies to diving head-first into another year of the rivalries, here are five games to mark on your calendar for the start of next season:

Washington has waited 44 years to be able to start the season with a real celebration on opening night, but come Oct. 3, with the Boston Bruins in town, Capitals fans will get to celebrate the 2017-18 Stanley Cup victory for the final time. On the first night of the season, the Capitals will raise the Stanley Cup-champion banner to the rafters and show off the hallowed trophy to their fans one final time before it goes back into its case. (That is, if anyone can pry it out of Alex Ovechkin’s hands.) The real shame here is that the Capitals won’t get to raise the banner in front of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who got to taunt Washington in that very way at the start of the 2016-17 campaign. However…

The day after Washington celebrates its Stanley Cup victory, the Capitals will be off to Pittsburgh where the Penguins will attempt to spoil any rekindling of the post-season party. The contest will mark Pittsburgh’s first opportunity to exact revenge for being sent packing from the post-season on home ice by the Capitals, and chances are the players and fans are going to be a bit feisty. It wouldn’t be at all shocking if there are some jeers sent Evgeny Kuznetsov’s way after his overtime goal that ended the Penguins’ season was punctuated by his patented arm-flapping celebration.

The horrifying tragedy that struck ahead of the Golden Knights’ inaugural regular season contest altered what the franchise had planned for its first-ever home opener, but the heartfelt salute to the city and first responders was one of the most memorable moments of the season. This time around, though, Vegas is going to come out with pomp and pageantry that we’ve now grown to associate with hockey just off The Strip when they play host to the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 4. And if you thought the post-season pregame introductions were long, you might need to buckle in given the Golden Knights will have a banner to raise, too, as the defending Western Conference champions.

There are few teams with as much hatred for each other as the Kings, Sharks and Ducks, and the good news for fans of the crash-and-bang brand of hockey is that it’s not going to take long for the three California clubs to start brewing the distaste for one another next season. On 2018-19’s opening night, Oct. 3, San Jose will welcome Anaheim as those two clubs do battle, and Los Angeles will play host to the Sharks just two days later to ensure that the fire in the Battle for California is stoked properly before we even hit the second week of the season. Anaheim’s the odd one out with its home opener against Detroit on Oct. 8.

What would opening night be without a battle between Original Six franchises? (All right, it would still be opening night, but you get the point.) With Toronto coming off of a successful regular season and second consecutive trip to the post-season and Montreal looking to get back on track after a disappointing down year, the Maple Leafs and Canadiens will clash in the Big Smoke on Oct. 3. Given there’s no banner-raising to be had, it’s likely for puck to hit ice first in Toronto, meaning the season will really, truly kick off in Toronto.

Anaheim Ducks: Monday, Oct. 8 vs. Detroit
Arizona Coyotes: Saturday, Oct. 6 vs. Anaheim
Boston Bruins: Monday, Oct. 8 vs. Ottawa
Buffalo Sabres: Thursday, Oct. 4 vs. Boston
Calgary Flames: Saturday, Oct. 6 vs. Vancouver
Carolina Hurricanes: Thursday, Oct. 4 vs. New York Islanders
Chicago Blackhawks: Sunday, Oct. 7 vs. Toronto
Colorado Avalanche: Thursday, Oct. 4 vs. Minnesota
Columbus Blue Jackets: Friday, Oct. 5 vs. Carolina
Dallas Stars: Thursday, Oct. 4 vs. Arizona
Detroit Red Wings: Thursday, Oct. 4 vs. Columbus
Edmonton Oilers: Thursday, Oct. 18 vs. Boston
Florida Panthers: Thursday, Oct. 11 vs. Columbus
Los Angeles Kings: Friday, Oct. 5 vs. San Jose
Minnesota Wild: Saturday, Oct. 6 vs. Vegas
Montreal Canadiens: Thursday, Oct. 11 vs. Los Angeles
Nashville Predators: Tuesday, Oct. 9 vs. Calgary
New Jersey Devils: Thursday, Oct. 11 vs. Washington
New York Islanders: Saturday, Oct. 6 vs. Nashville
New York Rangers: Thursday, Oct. 4 vs. Nashville
Ottawa Senators: Thursday, Oct. 4 vs. Chicago
Philadelphia Flyers: Tuesday, Oct. 9 vs. San Jose
Pittsburgh Penguins: Thursday, Oct. 4 vs. Washington
San Jose Sharks: Wednesday, Oct. 3 vs. Anaheim
St. Louis Blues: Thursday, Oct. 4 vs. Winnipeg
Tampa Bay Lightning: Saturday, Oct. 6 vs. Florida
Toronto Maple Leafs: Wednesday, Oct. 3 vs. Montreal
Vancouver Canucks: Wednesday, Oct. 3 vs. Calgary
Vegas Golden Knights: Thursday, Oct. 4 vs. Philadelphia
Washington Capitals: Wednesday, Oct. 3 vs. Boston
Winnipeg Jets: Tuesday, Oct. 9 vs. Los Angeles

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