2013-14 NHL Schedule: Highlighting the 10 Biggest Games of the Year

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IJuly 19, 2013

2013-14 NHL Schedule: Highlighting the 10 Biggest Games of the Year

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    The NHL released its 2013-14 schedule today and already fans are marking their calendars as they prepare for the new season.

    While there are 1,230 games on the schedule (and a lengthy break for the Olympics), here is a look at the 10 biggest games of the year.

    These games feature special matchups, big events and/or the return of a player or coach to his former haunts.

    Feel free to comment on this list and add any games you feel belong on it. Please state why you feel your game deserves to be on the list and which game you would take off to add your choice.

10. Bobby Ryan Returns to Anaheim

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    Oct. 13, 2013: Ottawa at Anaheim

    Bobby Ryan spent six successful seasons with the Anaheim Ducks including four straight seasons with 30 or more goals.

    Ryan was part of the Ducks' top line for much of that time along with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.

    Now he returns to Anaheim with the Ottawa Senators after the teams pulled off a big offseason trade that sent Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a first-round draft choice to Anaheim.

    It will be interesting to see how the fans react to Ryan who had made several trade demands to the Ducks in the past.

    This game will also be the first head-to-head meeting in determining who got the better of this deal.

9. Heritage Classic in Vancouver

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    Mar. 2, 2014: Heritage Classic, Ottawa at Vancouver in BC Place

    The NHL presents us with a large number of outdoor games this season including a revival of the Heritage Classic, the outdoor game held between two Canadian-based teams.

    This season, the game will be played at BC Place in Vancouver and will feature the Senators and Canucks. BC Place has a retractable roof that the league obviously hopes will be open for the game.

    The NHL hasn't held the Heritage Classic since 2011 when the Canadiens and Flames met at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.

    If this game is successful, the league will probably make the Heritage Classic an annual event.

8. The Blackhawks Raise the Stanley Cup Banner

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    Oct. 1, 2013: Washington at Chicago

    The Blackhawks will raise a new Stanley Cup banner for the second time in four years when they face the Washington Capitals on the opening night of the new season.

    The fans at the United Center in Chicago will have a chance to celebrate the Stanley Cup which they won on the road both in 2010 and 2013.

    Expect the building to be rocking as Chicago raises the fifth banner in franchise history.

7. Stanley Cup Final Rematch

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    Jan. 19, 2014: Boston at Chicago

    The Chicago Blackhawks will host the Boston Bruins in a Stanley Cup Final rematch on Jan. 19 at the United Center in Chicago.

    While the Bruins can't win the Cup on this night, they can try to get a small measure of revenge in front of a national television audience as they face the Blackhawks.

    Like the six games that were played in the Stanley Cup Final in June, expect a close and entertaining game with a very high level of play.

6. Outdoor Hockey Comes to LA

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    Jan. 25, 2014: Anaheim at Los Angeles in Dodger Stadium

    The NHL is holding six outdoor games next season including the first regular season outdoor game scheduled to take place at a warm-weather location.

    The Ducks and Kings will meet at historic Dodger Stadium, home of baseball's Dodgers since 1962.

    The NHL held an outdoor exhibition game between the Rangers and Kings in Las Vegas on Sept. 27, 1991, in the parking lot of Caesar's Palace. A total of 13,007 fans showed up and saw the Kings win 5-2.

    It will be interesting to see the condition of the ice in the dry, warm weather of Los Angeles.

    If this game is successful, outdoor games in other warm-weather sites are likely to follow.

5. Winter Classic Comes to Ann Arbor

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    Jan. 1, 2014: Toronto at Detroit in Michigan Stadium

    The Winter Classic comes to "The Big House" in Ann Arbor as the Detroit Red Wings host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    The game was supposed to be held in Ann Arbor last year but it was canceled due to last year's NHL lockout.

    More than 100,000 fans should attend this game between two long-term, Original Six rivals.

    This game should ideally also re-establish the Winter Classic as an annual event on American TV for the NHL.

4. Vincent Lecavalier Returns to Tampa Bay

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    Nov. 27, 2013: Philadelphia at Tampa Bay

    Vincent Lecavalier returns to Tampa Bay for the first time in a Flyers uniform on Nov. 23.

    Lecavalier spent 14 seasons with the Lightning after they selected him with the first overall pick in the 1998 NHL draft.

    There was pressure on Lecavalier from the beginning as he was viewed as the savior of the franchise. In fact, the owner of the Lightning at that time, Art Williams, called Lecavalier "the Michael Jordan of hockey" before he had even played a game in the NHL.

    While success wasn't immediate, Lecavalier went on to become captain of the Bolts and helped lead them to a Stanley Cup victory in 2004.

    In 1,037 games with the Lightning, Lecavalier scored 383 goals and 874 points.

    In 2006-07, he won the Rocket Richard Trophy after leading the NHL with 52 goals.

    The Lightning bought out his contract this summer and he signed with the Flyers. It will be interesting to see how the fans in Tampa respond to Lecavalier's return.

3. John Tortorella Returns to Broadway

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    Nov. 30, 2013: Vancouver at NY Rangers

    This game will be the first return to Madison Square Garden for John Tortorella and the first time former Canucks' coach Alain Vigneault will be facing his former team.

    By the way, the two teams meet again on Apr. 1 in a game that will mark Vigneault's return to Vancouver.

    The Rangers and Canucks now have some more history between them. They met in the Stanley Cup Final in 1994 with the Rangers winning in seven games.

    Mark Messier signed with the Canucks after leaving the Rangers in 1997 but was not very successful in Vancouver.

    Now this year, the teams fired their respective coaches and hired the coach that the other team let go.

    There will be plenty of moments between the players on each team and the opposing coach.

    It will also be interesting to see how Tortorella gets along with the New York media when he returns to the Big Apple.

2. Daniel Alfredsson Returns to Ottawa

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    Dec. 1, 2013: Detroit at Ottawa

    Former Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson returns to Canada's capital for the first time in a Red Wings sweater on Dec. 1st when Detroit visits Ottawa.

    Alfredsson spent 17 seasons with the Sens before signing as a free agent with the Red Wings earlier this month.

    The former Senators captain was very involved in charity work in Ottawa and was long considered the heart and soul of the franchise. He was captain for 14 seasons, the longest-serving captain in the league.

    Fans may not be pleased with the fact Alfredsson said he left Ottawa for Detroit because he wanted a chance to win a Stanley Cup before he retired.

1. Jarome Iginla Returns to Calgary

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    Dec. 10, 2013: Boston at Calgary

    While fans in Ottawa may be angry at Daniel Alfredsson for leaving, hockey fans in Calgary have no such reason to resent their long-time captain Jarome Iginla.

    Iginla returns to Calgary for the first time since the Flames traded him to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline last season.

    He will be in the uniform of the Boston Bruins, who signed Iginla to a free-agent contract this summer after nearly acquiring him at the trade deadline.

    Iginla spent 16 seasons with the Flames and helped lead them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004. The former captain of the Flames won an Art Ross Trophy and a pair of Rocket Richard Trophies with the Flames and was one of the most popular players in franchise history.

    It should be an emotional day for Iginla and the fans of Calgary when he returns.