NHL Schedule 2013: Complete Guide to Hockey's Revised Schedule
Well, some hockey is better than no hockey.
The NHL lockout has officially come to an end, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie, and that means it's time to fire up the Zambonis, lace up the skates and tape up the sticks in preparation for what's sure to be a thrilling shortened 2013 hockey season in North America.
It may not be a full 82-game slate, but it sure beats a lost season.
Here we get you set with everything you need to know about hockey's revised schedule, including a break down of some teams to watch for, as well as a bold 2013 Stanley Cup prediction.
Before we get there though, check out NHL.com for a look at this year's revised hockey schedule.
New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils (2/5)
These two teams provided plenty of fireworks last season, from their epic brawl in March to their exciting six-game series in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Their playoff battle was one of the highlights of the postseason. Eventually, the Devils prevailed over the No.1 seed Rangers thanks to a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 6.
Zach Parise is no longer with the Devils, but this game still features plenty of star-power. Look for Henrik Lundqvist, Martin Brodeur and the rest of these two Eastern Conference powerhouses to put on a show in February.
Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins (2/7)
Speaking of star-power, this game has about as much as you could ask for. Three of the league's premier players—Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin—will be on the ice in this one.
Between them, the three players have combined for 13 All-Star selections, four league MVPs and four scoring titles. All three are also entering their primes, as they are each 27 years old or younger.
It's always exciting when the league's top talents are in the same rink. This should be one of the best regular season games this year.
Los Angeles Kings at Minnesota Wild (3/30)
This list wouldn't be complete without an appearance from the defending champs. Fresh off their rampage through the 2012 postseason, the Kings will look to establish some early bragging rights over the talented Wild.
Minnesota was perhaps the biggest winner this offseason, bringing in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They look determined to improve on last season's 35-36-11 record, and a win over the Kings would send a strong message to the rest of the league.
I'd still put my money on Jonathan Quick and Co., but this should be one of the most exciting Western Conference matchups this season.
Teams to Watch
Los Angeles Kings
L.A. made a miraculous run to the Stanley Cup title last spring, which seems like ages ago following the 113-day long lockout. But with Jonathan Quick returning in goal for the Kings, Darryl Sutter's squad will have a phenomenal shot to defend its Stanley Cup championship, albeit during a shortened campaign.
With Quick dominating in front of the net, Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar will be able to pickup where they left off last June, playing unselfish hockey and dominating opposing defenses in the process.
L.A. boasts plenty of postseason experience after last season's deep run, but could be consumed by a championship hangover during this year's shortened run.
The good news for Capitals fans is that superstar Alex Ovechkin has been shredding the KHL this winter, scoring goals in bunches for Russian club Dynamo Moscow (19 goals through 31 games).
Ovechkin's Washington teammate, Nicklas Backstrom is also staying on top of his game overseas, playing alongside Ovi with Dynamo. In addition to the two offensive studs, the Capitals boast a promising young wall in goal in Braden Holtby, who played brilliant hockey during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Look for the Caps to make another deep run this spring behind the strength of their offensive firepower under new head coach Adam Oates.
2013 Stanley Cup Prediction
Four years after the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Detroit Red Wings in a thrilling Stanley Cup finals series, and five years after Detroit knocked off Pittsburgh for the title, I like both two teams to meet again in a championship rematch.
Reigning league MVP Evgeni Malkin has impressed me more than any other player while participating overseas during the lockout. Malkin has driven KHL club Metallurg Magnitogorsk all season long (62 points through 36 games), and he'll make the Penguins go this year. With his presence back on the ice, along with that of Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh will skate right into the finals.
Detroit will welcome in Damien Brunner (57 points through 33 games in Switzerland's National League A), a dynamic playmaker who is sure to create some buzz throughout the Motor City this year. In rematch of a series that went six games in 2008 and seven games in 2009, the Penguins win again, surviving in six hard-fought games.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.
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