With the new schedule announced, we can now circle Oct. 1 on our calenders as the first day that the puck will drop on the new season.
But the excitement goes far beyond the first games of the season. The NHL made the new divisional realignment official as well, rolling out two seven-team divisions in the Western conference and two eight-team divisions in Eastern Conference.
Here's what the new divisions look like. The full schedule can be found at NHL.com.
|Pacific Division||Central Division||Metropolitan Division||Atlantic Division|
|Los Angeles||Minnesota||NY Islanders||Florida|
|San Jose||St. Louis||Philadelphia||Ottawa|
Without further ado, let's take a look at the matchups that should generate the most buzz heading into next season.
Oct. 1, 2013: Washington Capitals vs. Chicago Blackhawks
The NHL pulled out all the stops with this opening-day game.
The Chicago Blackhawks will start their defense of the Stanley Cup against one of the league's biggest stars in Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals. The Caps were one of the top teams in the Eastern conference last season, going 27-18-3 and locking up the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
Ovechkin confirmed his superstar status by scoring the most goals in the strike-shortened season with 32.
The Blackhawks, of course, were the most dominant team in the Western Conference. They proved it in the regular season by going 36-7-5 to earn the top seed and running through the playoffs to hoist the Stanley Cup.
Pairing the defending champions against the defending scoring king is a matchup that will certainly have fans around the country tuning in.
Jan. 1, 2014: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium
The Bridgestone Winter Classic will make its triumphant return. After being canceled in 2013 thanks to the lockout, the annual outdoor spectacle returns as the Maple Leafs will take on the Red Wings at Michigan Stadium.
Ever since the first Winter Classic matchup went to a shootout finish in 2008, the matchup has always been one of the highlights of the season.
This year's spectacle could be even bigger when it travels to the Big House. The college football stadium has a capacity of over 100,000. If the attendance is anywhere close to that number for the first outdoor game of the season on New Year's Day, it will be a huge win for the league.
Plus, it will be an interesting look at a pair of new division rivals, as Detroit will be playing its inaugural season in the Eastern conference as part of the Atlantic division.
Jan. 19, 2014: Boston Bruins vs. Chicago Blackhawks
After watching these two teams slug it out in an epic six-game series that saw three of the games go into overtime, it's pretty cruel of the NHL to make us wait so long for them to meet again.
After all, as Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times tweeted, the series produced one of the most-watched games in recent NHL history.
The Blackhawks really didn't lose any of the valuable pieces that made them one of the best teams in hockey last year, and the Bruins should once again be a contender for the Cup.
Watching these two duke it out in the playoffs was a real joy to watch, and they should light it up once again on national TV. According to ESPN, the game will be broadcast on NBC.
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