One surefire sign that the NHL lockout is officially behind us is the release of the 2013 schedule.
Yes, it's 34 games lighter than we're used to, but at this point, 48 games are considerably better than the depressing prospect of a lost season we were faced with just weeks ago.
The shortened schedule will present a different landscape for the coming year and will lend added importance to each and every game.
But even with that, certain games stand out when compared to others. Here's a look at the 10 can't-miss games on the Philadelphia Flyers' 2013 schedule.
This isn't only one of the can't-miss Flyers' games this season, it's one of the can't-miss NHL games this year.
The heated rivalry between Philly and Pittsburgh kicks off the new season and reignites the debate of Claude Giroux vs. Sidney Crosby as the game's best player.
The last time these two teams collided, the Flyers were skating off the ice after an unexpected upset of the heavily favored Penguins. Pittsburgh will be out for early revenge, while the Flyers will be looking to prove that last postseason's victory wasn't a fluke.
It's Philly's home opener. It's the great Pennsylvania state rivalry. It's the return of the NHL.
After a highly encouraging opening-round postseason victory over the Penguins, the Flyers followed that up with a fizzling second-round setback to New Jersey.
The Flyers will get an early opportunity in 2013 to avenge (at least to some point) their playoff debacle to the Devils. Kovalchuk or no Kovalchuk, New Jersey will pose a challenge for the orange and black.
To be the best, you have to beat the best. This will serve as an early opportunity for Philadelphia to assert itself as one of the teams to beat in the East.
If there's an early-season favorite in the Eastern Conference, it's the New York Rangers.
The Flyers came up empty in six meetings with the Rangers last season, and New York will be an even tougher opponent this season following the acquisition of seasoned sniper Rick Nash.
New Jersey may be the reigning Eastern Conference champ, but the road to the top of the Atlantic Division is likely to go through Madison Square Garden this season.
Philly would love nothing more than to assert itself early against the division favorites and will have that opportunity in the team's second home game.
Outside of the standard goaltending questions that annually plague the Flyers, the biggest question surrounding this year's team is the defense.
There were zero noteworthy additions on the back end this summer and one significant loss as Matt Carle bolted via free agency for Tampa Bay.
This will be just Philadelphia's sixth game of the season, but with the shortened schedule, it will need to be determined sooner rather than later whether the Flyers' horses on defense can hack it this year.
This game will either serve as a testament to GM Paul Holmgren's fortitude in allowing Carle to walk or an early-season reminder of the one who got away.
After facing superstars like Crosby, Nash, Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos in the season's opening month, the Flyers will kick off the second month against Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals.
Washington is no longer one of the elite powers of the East, but with the likes of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green, the Capitals are still one of the toughest outs in the conference.
Particularly at home.
Giroux vs. Ovechkin should be as intense an in-game matchup as Giroux vs. Crosby. If the Flyers can find a way to win difficult early-season road tests like this one, it will go a long way to solidifying Philly's spot atop the conference.
This showdown in Toronto may not seem like much at first glance, but it kicks off a season-long six-game road trip for the orange and black.
A solid start to long road trips can lead to sustained success, while a slipup early on can have the opposite effect.
Great teams not only find ways to win on the road but win consistently away from home.
This will also be the first showdown between the Flyers and Maple Leafs since their midsummer swap of James van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn.
Just as good teams need to find a way to win on the road, they also must find a way to win at home.
This late March Atlantic Division showdown kicks off a season-long five-game home stand for the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
Philadelphia dropped all three of its home clashes with the Rangers a season ago and needs wins both at home and against the Blue Shirts to challenge for one of the top spots in the conference.
The Flyers' compete level in this game will be a wonderful indication of whether this team is a true competitor or not.
The Flyers' fate will likely be determined at this point.
Genuine Eastern Conference contender or shortened-season pretender? The answer will likely be apparent by mid-April.
And that answer will dictate the fans' reaction to goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov when he hits the ice for this late-season showdown.
Will he be showered by support from the City of Brotherly Love, or will he enter the arena to a chorus of boos?
That's reason enough to tune in.
Forget about Bryzgalov.
In Philadelphia's final regular-season home game, will the Flyers take the ice to raucous applause or the avalanche of boos for which Philly fans are famous?
Expectations for this year's group are incredibly high. As such, the playoffs are a must. If the Flyers are on the outside looking in come mid-April, the boo birds will most certainly be out at Wells Fargo Center.
However, if Philly is in serious contention, Flyers fans will be all in and cheering their team for many more home games to come.
The Flyers' final regular-season game will either be a prelude to a playoff run or the end of another forgettable sports season in Philadelphia.
In this tilt, Philly will either be jockeying for playoff position, fighting for its playoff life or simply 60 minutes from hitting the golf course.
If it's either of the first two, the game is worth watching simply to see where this team stands on the cusp of the postseason. If it's the last one, it's worth tuning in just to see the orange and black one last time before another long and painful summer.
In any event, it's a can't-miss contest.