The lockout is officially over. Hockey is officially back.
The memorandum of understanding has been signed. The NHL lockout is officially over after 119 days. #dropthepuck— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) January 13, 2013
The season will kickoff on January 19 with 13 games. Here they are, courtesy of NHL.com:
|PIT||PHI||3 p.m. ET|
|OTT||WPG||3 p.m. ET|
|CHI||LA||3 p.m. ET|
|NYR||BOS||7 p.m. ET|
|TOR||MON||7 p.m. ET|
|NJ||NYI||7 p.m. ET|
|WAS||TB||7 p.m. ET|
|CAR||FLA||7:30 p.m. ET|
|DET||STL||8 p.m. ET|
|COL||NAS||8 p.m. ET|
|PHX||DAL||8 p.m. ET|
|COL||MIN||9 p.m. ET|
|ANA||VAN||10 p.m. ET|
As expected, we are going to see some great matchups to start the season.
Five things to watch for:
1. Claude Giroux vs. Sidney Crosby
Last year, these two went at it in the playoffs. They nearly fought. Giroux got the better of Crosby as the Flyers dominated the Penguins in the opening round of the 2012 NHL Playoffs. Two potential top-scoring candidates face off in an epic Pennsylvania rivalry showdown.
2. Steven Stamkos vs. Alex Ovechkin
The reigning Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy winner for most goals, Steven Stamkos, faces off on his home ice against previous winner and five-time 50-goal scorer Alex Ovechkin. Can Stamkos get his team off on the right foot with a win against his division rival? Or can Alex Ovechkin get back to his offensive form by lighting the lamp in Tampa?
3. Los Angeles Kings unveil championship banner, look to build upon momentum from last season.
You had to figure the Kings would open the season on their home ice. It's been long awaited for Kings fans to get their banner and rings. The path to a repeat starts at home with a great matchup against Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks.
4. Staal brothers unite
Jordan Staal has joined his brother, Eric, in Carolina. They'll begin the season on the same team out in South Florida against the Panthers, who won the Southeast Division in 2012. Both Jordan and Eric are centers, so they won't be playing on the same line. But once they get on the power play, it will be interesting to see what the two can do together.
5. Marion Gaborik, Brad Richards and Rick Nash
The Rangers landed the best offseason acquisition of any team, Rick Nash. After not getting it done with the league's worst team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nash will get a chance to dangle with the reigning No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers, in my opinion, are preseason favorites to win the East.
It is simply refreshing to know the puck will be dropped on January 19th. Let's get the party started!