The 2013 NHL regular-season schedule opens Tuesday night, and hockey fans from around the world are ready to witness the offseason conference and divisional changes finally implemented on the ice.
The league's opening day features three marquee matchups that will set the tone for the season.
Even if your favorite team doesn’t play Tuesday, having the sport of hockey back once again should have every fan flocking to the television to catch a glimpse of the intense on-ice battles.
|Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens||7 p.m.||CBC|
|Washington Capitals at Chicago Blackhawks||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Winnipeg Jets at Edmonton Oilers||10 p.m.||CBC|
Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens
The opening game of the night will feature the Toronto Maple Leafs squaring off against the Montreal Canadiens in a battle of Original Six teams and Canadian foes. What better way to kick off the national sport of Canada than with these two teams?
Each teams will continue learning everything it can about the other, as Toronto is scheduled to play Montreal five times this season. That familiarity will result in hostility Tuesday night and throughout the 2013-14 season.
The Canadiens added a key offensive piece over the summer with the signing of forward Daniel Briere, but injuries along the blue line are already taking a toll. With defenseman Douglas Murray out for several weeks, rookie Jarred Tinordi must step up.
Toronto will be without its biggest move from the offseason as forward David Clarkson begins serving his 10-game suspension for leaving the bench during a fight. How the Maple Leafs compensate for the void he leaves will be the key to the team’s success through the first 10 games.
Fans should expect plenty of energy from both organizations and a high-scoring matchup that leaves Montreal standing tall at the end of regulation.
Predicted Final Score: Montreal 5, Toronto 4
Washington Capitals at Chicago Blackhawks
The battle between the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and the championship-contending Washington Capitals will be nationally televised in the United States on opening night.
Washington will be forced to sit through the banner-raising ceremony, which should be enough to breed animosity in this matchup. The Capitals want a Stanley Cup, and they must go through the Blackhawks to get there.
Chicago still has one of the most talented rosters in the league, though. Despite several offseason moves, the core of captain Jonathan Toews, scoring-machine Patrick Kane and shut-down defender Duncan Keith will keep the Blackhawks in contention once again.
The Capitals will be leaning on their own core of talented players—forwards Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman Mike Green—but the outcome will be decided by how well the role players perform.
While it may be only the first game of a long season, how each team responds to this tough matchup will be a good gauge of how the teams will play for the first half of the year.
Predicted Final Score: Chicago 3, Washington 2
Winnipeg Jets at Edmonton Oilers
In another Canadian matchup, the Winnipeg Jets will travel to Edmonton to square off with the Oilers in the closing game of opening night. While this Western Conference battle doesn't have the marketability of the other two games, hockey fans will be in store for a memorable nightcap.
These teams are continuing to find their identities.
With Winnipeg back in the West after wallowing in the Eastern Conference, the expectations are beginning to rise for the franchise that relocated only two seasons ago. Those expectations are starting to focus on making the playoffs, as the young players drafted over the years have started to reach their primes.
The Oilers have a promising group of playmakers, but the talent brought in around them will determine whether the team makes the postseason.
While this isn't the greatest matchup on paper, true hockey fans will enjoy this finale to opening night.
Predicted Final Score: Edmonton 5, Winnipeg 3