The first thing any fan does when the schedule comes out is look for the big games. Rivalries, rematches and former teammates provide most of those interests.
Aside from variables that can influence the importance of games, there are many games that stand out.
Every game in this Pacific Division is important for establishing the kind of supremacy the San Jose Sharks enjoyed in general manager Doug Wilson's first nine years. But most of those will not be the biggest of the big games.
The Vancouver Canucks would like to get revenge on the Sharks in the season opener. However, it does not meet the standard because it is no more important to San Jose than any other season opener, apart for those major players that might not return.
There are three games that meet a different standard. Expect each of them (listed in chronological order) to be the biggest games until events such as bad blood, trades and late-season standings elevate others.
October 30 at Los Angeles Kings: Just as Vancouver wants a shot at San Jose, the Sharks want a shot at the Kings. In last year's playoffs, they were within inches of riding a Joe Pavelski tying goal into overtime in Game 7 in L.A., in what instead became another season in which they were multiple wins short of even a Western Conference victory. You cannot redeem such a loss against a long-time rival, but you can gain a lot of confidence with a strong win.
November 17 at Chicago Blackhawks: Not only is Chicago the Stanley Cup champion, but they rolled to three regulation wins that started when San Jose was the hotter of the two teams. It is also likely that Antti Niemi will be on a two-day rest with a chance to take a game from the team that chose to let him go after the 2009-10 season rather than pay him what the arbitrator awarded.
December 10 vs. New York Islanders: This may very well be Evgeni Nabokov's last trip to San Jose. Even though Antti Niemi has been better in stretches for the Sharks, Nabby is still the best goalie in the history of the franchise for two reasons: Nabby did it for longer and got this team one win deeper (with a lesser team) in 2004 than Nemo did in 2011.