NHL 2013-14 Schedule Released: Opening Week Must-Watch Games

Mark JonesSenior Analyst IJuly 19, 2013

Sept 23, 2011; Chicago, IL, USA; Washington Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun (29) and Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) look for a loose puck during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

After weeks of impatient anticipation, the NHL has officially released the 1,230-game schedule for the 2013-14 regular season.

The season will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 1 with three games—the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Montreal Canadiens, the Washington Capitals at the defending Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets at the Edmonton Oilers.

Oct. 2 will feature three more high-profile contests as the Leafs visit the Philadelphia Flyers, the Buffalo Sabres travel to new divisional rival Detroit Red Wings and the Anaheim Ducks face off against the Colorado Avalanche.

Sixteen teams will then take part in eight matches on Oct. 3.

The new division titles were also released Friday afternoon, with a few surprises in store:

Metropolitan Division: Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals

Atlantic Division: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs

Central Division: Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets

Pacific Division: Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks

The 2013-14 NHL campaign will include six highly-touted outdoor games, beginning with the Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings in Michigan Stadium in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1.

Dodger Stadium will host Kings vs. Ducks on Jan. 25, Yankee Stadium will host Rangers vs. Devils on Jan. 26 and Rangers vs. Islanders on Jan. 29, Soldier Field will host Penguins vs. Blackhawks on Mar. 1 and BC Place will host Senators vs. Canucks on Mar. 2 in the annual Heritage Classic.

Even though the season remains months away, it's never to early to prime your calendar for a few early October nights.

A breakdown of three particularly must-see games from opening week falls below.


Washington Capitals vs. Chicago Blackhawks (Tuesday, Oct. 1)

TV: NBC Sports Network, 8 p.m. ET

The tradition of kicking off the NHL season with the Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony never gets old.

The 'Hawks will start their eight-month journey towards a championship repeat with a cross-conference duel against the Caps, who will look to see how much the loss of Mike Ribeiro to Phoenix will affect their dynamic offense.

Meanwhile, Chicago should be debuting a number of new players of their own after the trades of Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik during June's draft.


Los Angeles Kings vs. Minnesota Wild (Thursday, Oct. 3)

TV: NBC Sports Network, 8 p.m. ET

The Kings are already looking towards a third consecutive Conference Finals appearance next, but they have an incredibly long and difficult season ahead before that point.

A season opener against the 'X'-factor that is Minnesota should be decidedly intriguing. The Wild made the playoffs for the first time in five years in 2013, and have the on-paper talent to make an even bigger splash this time around—yet they couldn't have asked for a tougher first opponent this autumn.

Two unconventional markets squaring off on national television on the season's mere third day makes for a must-watch match.


Detroit Red Wings vs. Boston Bruins (Saturday, Oct. 5)

TV: NHL Network, 7 p.m. ET

The summer's fastest riser squares off against the defending champions of their new conference—who could've imagined a better kick-off game for the 2013-14 season's first weekend?

The Red Wings, now loaded with new additions Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss up front, will have to prove their disappointing seventh-place regular season finish in 2013 wasn't the start of a downward trend.

Spoiling the Bruins' home opener could go a long way towards accomplishing that goal.