NHL Schedule 2013: Latest Chatter on Opening Day Matchups

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NHL Schedule 2013: Latest Chatter on Opening Day Matchups
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Hockey fans endured an extended lockout for the second time in less than a decade, and now they are dealing with a schedule lockout. The NHL still hasn't released the shortened-season slate, as it awaits CBA ratification by the players.

Aaron Ward of TSN reports teams received their respective schedules on Friday, which will give them one day to rectify any potential issues before the expected release on Saturday. Players are expected to finish voting early Saturday morning.

That said, some games that fans can expect to see on opening day, which is targeted for Jan. 19, have begun to leak out through the media. Let's take a look at some of the most intriguing matchups.

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Detroit Red Wings vs. St. Louis Blues (via Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

The Central Division rivals will kick things off with their usual clash of styles. The offensively gifted Red Wings, led by Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, will attempt to find holes in Jaroslav Halak and the defensive-minded Blues.

St. Louis was actually one of the league's biggest surprises last season, finishing tied with the New York Rangers for the second-highest point total behind the Vancouver Canucks.

The Blues lack star power, but put forth a style that will be tough to play against—especially as teams start playing on short rest.

On the flip side, Detroit has plenty of stars, including Datsyuk, Zetterberg and goalie Jimmy Howard. The questions for the Wings will revolve around depth and whether they have enough to survive the condensed campaign if injuries strike.

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Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers (via Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com)

Getting the season started with the battle of Pennsylvania just seems right. The rivalry between the sides has been ramped up over the past few seasons, which means the potential for some early-season fireworks should get fans excited for hockey again.

As always, the focus for Pittsburgh surrounds the dynamic duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby scored 37 points in just 22 games last season and should be fully recovered from his concussion issues. Malkin led the league with 109 points.

The Flyers have their own superstars in the likes of Claude Giroux, who piled up an eye-popping 65 assists last season. He will lead the gritty Flyers into battle, as they look to strike first in a season where literally every point is going to matter.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings (via Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times)

The defending champions will begin their title defense against the Blackhawks, who brought home the Stanley Cup two seasons ago. The Kings actually entered last season's playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the West before embarking on a memorable run.

Goaltender Jonathan Quick will once again be Los Angeles' most important player. He's coming off a season in which he posted a 1.95 GAA and played the role of a brick wall en route to the Cup. It's hard to imagine what he'll do for an encore.

The Blackhawks wish they had a goalie as reliable as Quick, but will instead hope their offensive stars can carry the load. The trio of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane is certainly capable of leading the way, but it'll need some help.

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