The 20 Most Interesting Games in This Short NHL Season

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20 Games to Watch

staples center
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Here it is, folks. After begging, crying, pleading, praying to who or whatever and going through the Seven Stages of Grief, we finally have a hockey season. Let’s be honest, we’ve been waiting for this day since last September, maybe even earlier than that. We’re all like kids on Christmas morning, but instead of ripping into wrapping paper and squealing over our gifts, we’re bouncing off the walls and squealing over our favorite teams. We’ve missed them, and they’ve missed their fans.

It’s going to be one hell of a ride over the next 99 days. You have rivalries that make the Hatfields and McCoys look like fighting first graders, rematches that will be as epic as the main event at WrestleMania and other games that will make you laugh, cry, scream at your TV or do all three in one night. Then again, that’s par for the course in an 82-game season, so we’re all used to it.

There are questions that have arisen since last June. Will we see Darryl Sutter crack a smile? Will Rick DiPietro get through this season without an injury? Is Dustin Byfuglien really overweight? Most importantly, how will Henrik Lundqvist show everyone that he’s better looking than Brian Boyle? Those superficial questions may or may not be answered, but you can be sure that the bigger issues of injury, readiness and player rust will be addressed very quickly.

Grab some snacks, get your game gear in place and settle in your favorite chair, ladies and gentlemen. It’s time for some hockey.

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Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings

kings
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Date: January 19

One of NBC’s national games pits the 2010 Stanley Cup champions against the Kings as they raise their first championship banner to the rafters of Staples Center. I don’t want to jinx the Kings and their game, but it should be noted that the visiting Philadelphia Flyers beat the Boston Bruins at their banner-raising game back in 2011.

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Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers

Crosby
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Date: January 19

It’s a storied cross-state rivalry, and fans have been waiting for this. The last time they met was during the 2012 playoffs, and it was explosive. With Sidney Crosby healthy and Claude Giroux a newly-appointed captain, things could either be relatively calm or very, very messy.

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New York Rangers at Boston Bruins

Bruins
Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Date: January 19

The Rangers will be sporting new teammate Rick Nash when they hit the ice in Boston. For the Bruins, aside from hearing the dulcet tones of Rene Rancourt singing the national anthem, they’ll have a healthy Nathan Horton but not the net presence of Tim Thomas.

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New Jersey Devils at New York Islanders

Islanders
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Date: January 19

The Islanders’ first game of the season happens to be a home game, and it also begins their slow farewell before the team relocates to Brooklyn in 2015. With the future of Lubomir Visnovsky in question, this makes for a very interesting opener.

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Anaheim Ducks at Vancouver Canucks

canucks
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Date: January 19

Canucks fans wills see something rare: Roberto Luongo riding the bench as backup goalie. He’s playing under duress because he’d rather be anywhere else and is still waiting for a trade nibble. This saga will be longer, sadder and filled with more drama than the Rick Nash trade story.

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Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild

Wild
Ron-Chenoy-USA-TODAY-Sports

Date: January 19

This game is special for two reasons. First, it’s the first time Gabriel Landeskog takes the ice as captain of the Avalanche. Second, and most importantly for Wild fans, it will be Josh Harding’s first game since disclosing his Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis in October. Even if he doesn’t play, he’ll get a rousing ovation during introductions.

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Detroit Red Wings at Columbus Blue Jackets

Jackets
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Date: January 21

The Blue Jackets took the initiative over the offseason and did some rebuilding. They brought in several new players via trade or free agency, hired a new President of Hockey Operations and have energized the fans with their “Join the Battle” campaign. All they need is for that enthusiasm to translate into a winning record. Nationwide Arena will be rocking for their home debut.

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Edmonton Oilers at Calgary Flames

Flames
Tom Szcerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Date: January 26

The first round of the Battle of Alberta will take place at the end of January on the Flames’ turf. Last season, the Flames won the series 4-2 with a couple of shutouts along the way. With a roster that boasts the first overall pick from the last three draft years, the Oilers will fight to stay out of last (or nearly last) place.

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New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils

Rangers
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Date: February 5

Here it is: the first rematch of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. The rosters have changed – the Devils are without Zach Parise and have Bryce Salvador as captain, while the Rangers are without Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov. Fans will see if the Rangers will still be bewitched by the Devils or have broken their spell.

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Los Angeles Kings at Phoenix Coyotes

Kings
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Date: February 6

Like the Rangers and Devils, the Western Conference Final will be revisited. While that Kings look to show the Coyotes what made them Champions, the Coyotes want to show everyone that their Cinderella journey wasn’t a fluke.

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Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens

Canadiens
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Date: February 6

This has to be the biggest rivalry in the NHL, if not one of them. Even though last season’s series was quieter than usual, don’t expect a repeat of that. With decades of bad blood between them, this will be one of those edge-of-your-seat games.

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Chicago Blackhawks at Phoenix Coyotes

Coyotes
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Date: February 7

This won’t be their first meeting of the season, but it will be Raffi Torres’ first game fresh off his 21-game suspension. After the completely foolish “Free Raffi” campaign during the playoffs, how will fans react to him? We’ll also see what happens if he shares the ice with Marian Hossa.

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Ottawa Senators at Toronto Maple Leafs

Senators
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Date: February 16

Like the Battle of Alberta, the Battle of Ontario is always a barnburner. After the short-lived postseason appearance by the Senators, they’ll be looking to build on that. The Leafs will be trying to prove themselves to new general manager Dave Nonis and earn the right to be in the playoffs as well.

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Toronto Maple Leafs at Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Date: February 25

In one of those games that could go under the radar, these two teams will meet for the first time since the Flyers traded James van Riemsdyk to the Leafs for Luke Schenn. How will Flyers fans receive van Riemsdyk in his Leafs sweater? Hopefully the way Pittsburgh Penguins fans received Max Talbot as a Flyer: with applause.

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Detroit Red Wings at Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Date: February 27

This is another Original Six matchup that has a long history. Considering the fact that this is the first of their series to be held in Chicago, you can bet the chants of “Detroit sucks!” will be loud and plentiful.

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Pittsburgh Penguins at Carolina Hurricanes

Hurricanes
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Date: February 28

After the bombshell trade during the 2012 draft, Jordan Staal is now playing with brother and Hurricanes captain Eric. No doubt he’ll get a warm welcome from Penguins fans and his former teammates when he returns to Consol Energy Center.

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Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals

Caps
James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Date: March 5

Last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series between the Bruins and Capitals was a nasty seven-game affair. You can bet that the Bruins will come to this game equipped with a strategy to shut down Braden Holtby should he be in net for the game.

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Edmonton Oilers at Anaheim Ducks

Oilers
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Date: April 8

The saga of this game goes like this: Justin Schultz was drafted by the Ducks in 2008 but decided to stay at the University of Wisconsin. The Ducks never signed him, so when he decided to de-register from the school in 2012, he became a free agent. The Ducks had a 30-day first crack at him but never took it, so he chose the Oilers. He’s been on fire in the past three years, most recently with the Oklahoma City Barons. This could be an awkward meeting.

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Montreal Canadiens at Winnipeg Jets

Jets
Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Date: April 25

The Jets may never play the Canadiens as much as they have. Now that a new CBA is in place, the new talk will be on realignment, which means this game would be their last game as members of the Eastern Conference, Southeast Division. No sendoff here, just an uncertainty as to where their new home will be.

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Phoenix Coyotes at Anaheim Ducks

Teemu
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Date: April 27

The Ducks’ last game at home could very well be the last game for Teemu Selanne. However their season plays out, fans will give him a farewell befitting one of the greatest players in the game. Even the Coyotes (his old team when they were the old Winnipeg Jets) will find it hard not to salute a modern hockey legend.

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