Forgive the guttural response, but after a lockout that threatened to eliminate the 2012-13 season and then a week of interminable waiting, the NHL schedule has finally been released.
Each team will play 48 games, with all games played against conference opponents. Teams will play two divisional opponents five times and the other two divisional rivals four times. Teams will face non-divisional conference opponents three times each.
The teams will play out the compacted schedule in a 99-day period.
The season will open Jan. 19 with 13 games, and NBC will broadcast the banner-raising opener between the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks, as well as the Pittsburgh Penguins visiting the Philadelphia Flyers, on a regional basis.
The regular season will end April 27, and the Stanley Cup playoffs will begin April 30.
NBC will broadcast 15 regular-season games, and it will combine with the NBC Sports Network to carry 70 games on national television. The NHL Network will air 78 games on U.S. television.
The Blackhawks will make five appearances each on NBC, while the Kings, Penguins and Detroit Red Wings will make four each.
The Flyers lead the way with 13 appearances on the NBC Sports Network, followed by the Penguins with 11. The New York Rangers and Boston Bruins will both make 10 appearances.
The Penguins will make the most appearances on the U.S. version of the NHL Network with 14, while the Bruins are closely behind with 11. The Red Wings make 10 appearances on the NHL Network, while the Vancouver Canucks make nine appearances.
All teams will have to deal with scheduling oddities like frequent back-to-back games. The Kings face one of the most challenging scheduling situations, as they will be forced to play 17 games in the 31-day March portion of the schedule.
Here are some can't-miss games.
New York Rangers at Boston Bruins, Jan. 19
The Rangers are in the driver's seat this year and begin the season as the Stanley Cup favorites. The Bruins are a powerhouse team and just one season removed from their own championship season. This game will mark the debut of Rick Nash for the Rangers and the return of Nathan Horton for the Bruins. The hatred between these two rivals should be obvious from the opening faceoff.
Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild, Jan. 19
The Wild became one of the big boys in the NHL when they dominated the offseason by signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They open the season against an up-and-coming Colorado Avalanche featuring superstar-to-be Gabriel Landeskog.
Detroit Red Wings at Chicago Blackhawks, Jan. 27
The Red Wings are a team in transition this season, as Nick Lidstrom has retired. Even though they still have plenty of talent, that's a huge blow. The Blackhawks face a critical season after two straight first-round losses in the playoffs.
Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning, Feb. 14
These two teams figure to fight for the Southeast Division title this season. The confrontation between Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos should be epic. Ovechkin was the best goal scorer in the league in 2008 and 2009, and that crown is now held by Stamkos.
Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs, Feb. 27
Both of these teams were disasters last year, and there's no guarantee that they will improve this year. However, both teams should be filled with desperation and hatred as they near the midseason point in the schedule, and this game will be worth watching.
Edmonton Oilers at Dallas Stars, Feb. 28
The Oilers may be the most exciting and improved team in the league this year. The young talent is undeniable, and a chance to watch Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov go on the road to face Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney and Michael Ryder makes this a can't-miss game.
Los Angeles Kings at Vancouver Canucks, March 2
A pivotal game in the schedule, this marks the Kings' first trip to Vancouver this season. Not only did the Kings beat the Canucks in their playoff series last year, they were 3-0 in the games in Vancouver. This should bring out the Canucks' best effort.
Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins, March 24
While many are pointing at the season-opening game between the league's two Pennsylvania rivals, the last regular-season game between Claude Giroux's Flyers and the Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin-led Penguins should be epic, with plenty of goals and plenty of fights.
New Jersey Devils at Ottawa Senators, March 25
The Devils could be in trouble this year after losing Zach Parise in the offseason, but they still have Martin Brodeur in goal and Lou Lamoriello in the front office, so they can't be written off. The Senators were a playoff team last year, and defenseman Erik Karlsson is one of the most exciting players in the league.
Phoenix Coyotes at St. Louis Blues, April 18
These were two of the best stories in the NHL last year, as both teams surprised observers with their strong showings. Despite all their off-ice problems, the Coyotes appear to have excellent young talent, while the Blues could challenge for the top regular-season spot in the Western Conference.
NHL.com link to each team's regular-season schedule.
NHL.com link to full regular-season schedule.
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