NHL Schedule: Top Matchups from the First Week of the 2011-2012 Season

Kyle NicolasContributor IAugust 3, 2011

NHL Schedule: Top Matchups from the First Week of the 2011-2012 Season

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    The 2011-2012 NHL schedule offers a whole host of exciting matchups to look forward to right from the first night of action, and that's a very good thing, with the calendar's turn to August signaling the most painfully dreary stretch of the year for hockey fans.

    In anticipation of the new year, I offer you a look ahead to the first weeks of October when the NHL drops the puck on a new season.

    For many teams, this new season is a new shot at that elusive Stanley Cup. For the Boston Bruins, it signals the start of the defense of their title.

    Still, other teams are looking to redeem themselves from poor years and missed playoff berths last season.

    All of these storylines will swing into motion on the night of October 6, 2011 when the NHL will at long last spring into action again.

    Here is a look at the highlights from the first week of scheduled action.


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Thursday: October 9, 2011

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    Interestingly enough, the NHL's new season will begin on a Thursday this year, and with hardly a bang; only six teams will be in action. However, all three matchups have a lot to offer.

    Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET)

    After getting embarrassingly swept out of the playoffs, the Flyers will get their chance at revenge immediately at the start of the new season, traveling to Boston to take on the Bruins. Ilya Bryzgalov will be playing his first game in net for Philly, and Boston, meanwhile, will be looking to set a good tone for the start of their Stanley Cup Championship defense on the night they raise the banner to the rafters.


    Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET)

    Toronto is looking to try to finally push themselves over the top and into the playoffs after a great run of form that came just a little too late last season. Montreal, meanwhile, will be looking to try to claw their way back into the playoffs, but with the way their lineup looks, that might be a bit tougher a task this season. The rivalry between two of the most storied franchises in the NHL will continue and might give us a few clues as to what the rest of the season holds in store.


    Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m. ET)

    It's believed that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin should finally be healthy again, making the Penguins once again one of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference. Their season doesn't start off easy, however, as they immediately face the Stanley Cup Finalist Vancouver Canucks on the road. Vancouver really only lost one key player, making them still extremely dangerous, and this game is an extremely tough matchup for both teams.

Friday: October 10, 2011

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    While it isn't the first day of NHL action like it has been in years past, the NHL will once again be opening its doors to fans in Europe with four games in Europe as part of the NHL Premiere.

    Anaheim Ducks vs. Buffalo Sabres (1 p.m. ET)

    The Sabres have steadily boosted their ranks this offseason, making them a serious playoff contender and a tough team for anyone to have to deal with, with a now-healthy Derek Roy. For Anaheim, this game is significant for three members of the squad (Teemu Selanne, Toni Lydman and Saku Koivu), as the game will be played in Helsinki, Finland. Selanne, who has pretty much achieved A-list celebrity status in his native nation, will be playing NHL hockey in front of his adoring fans for the first time, assuming he decides to play again next season.


    New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings (1 p.m. ET)

    The other half of the first day of NHL Premiere action takes place in Stockholm, Sweden, with the now-deadly Los Angeles Kings starting their season off against the New York Rangers. Fans will remember that LA tried to lure New York's big free agent signing Brad Richards to the west coast, making this a very interesting matchup to have out of the gate. LA would no doubt love to prove to Richards that he picked the wrong team to sign with.


    Nashville Predators vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET)

    Back at home, the Nashville Predators, a team hit really hard by free agency this offseason, will be playing their first game in their new "Behold the Gold" uniforms, or, well, at least the road edition of them. Meanwhile the Blue Jackets picked up big names Jeff Carter and James Wisnewski in the offseason, adding a little bit more of an edge to a franchise that up until now has consistently been pretty much a non-threat to the rest of the league. That looks like it could change this year, and this first game might hold some clues.

Saturday: October 11, 2011

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    The first weekend of the new NHL season will bring plenty of action, as there are 13 games scheduled.

    New York Rangers vs. Anaheim Ducks (1p.m. ET)

    Day two of the NHL Premiere kicks off with the Ducks taking on the Blueshirts in Stockholm, Sweden.


    Buffalo Sabres vs Los Angeles Kings (1 p.m. ET)

    The NHL ventures into uncharted waters as the Kings and Sabres face off in the NHL's first ever game in Germany. The contest will be played in the new O2 World Arena, located in the city of Berlin.


    Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET)

    Tampa Bay gets a rough start to their season, facing off with an immediate back-to-back with the Carolina Hurricanes (Friday night) and then the Boston Bruins. This one will have some special meaning for the Bolts, as they look to avenge their Eastern Conference Final loss to the B's by venturing back into TD Banknorth Garden.


    Carolina Hurricanes vs. Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET)

    The Washington Capitals get their season underway with a divisional matchup with the Hurricanes. The Capitals made some great moves in the offseason and look to be a heavy favorite for a deep playoff run in the East this season.


    Detroit Red Wings vs. Colorado Avalanche (9 p.m. ET)

    One of the biggest rivalries in all of sports resumes yet again as the Wings travel to Denver to take on the Avalanche. This will be our first look at the new goaltending tandem of Semyon Varlamov and J.S. Giguere, both offseason acquisitions for the Avalanche who are loaded with young superstars, but don't look ready to jump into the playoffs again just yet.

Sunday: October 12, 2011

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    Only two games on the schedule on the first Sunday of NHL action, but it's a monumental day nonetheless.

    Montreal Canadiens vs. Winnipeg Jets (5 p.m. ET)

    The NHL will finally at long last make its long-awaited return to Winnipeg, and the MTS Center will be packed to capacity as the newest reincarnation of the Winnipeg Jets will finally take flight (pun intended).

    Their first opponent? The Montreal Canadiens. And while the Jets will be playing in the smallest building in the NHL (taking the tile away from the Nassau Veterans Memorial Colosseum and the New York Islanders), you can bet it will definitely also be one of the loudest on this night as hockey will finally return to Winnipeg.

Monday: October 13, 2011

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    One of the busier Mondays on the NHL's schedule sees seven games, but few of much significance early in the season, as there's only one real highlight.

    Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals

    The tough start for the Bolts continues, as their season-opening road trip carries them into Washington to take on the rival Capitals. This is a huge matchup for both teams and will set a tone for the next five meetings between these two, who figure to be pushing each other for the division lead for pretty much the entire season.

    The Caps, meanwhile, would love nothing more than to avenge their embarrassing exit from last year's playoffs at the hands of Tampa Bay with a host of victories this season.

Tuesday: October 14, 2011

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    Only two games on the NHL schedule makes for another slower night.

    Florida Panthers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET)

    The new-look Panthers quickly face a stern test in their second game, as they become the home-opener for the extremely talented Penguins.

    This will be a huge test of character for the Panthers, who have largely lived in the shadows as a bottom-dweller in the East. A win in this game could be a huge statement early in their season.

Wednesday: October 15, 2011

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    A three-game Wednesday is the perfect setup to a big end to the first week of NHL action.

    Vancouver Canucks vs. Philadelphia Flyers (7:30 p.m. ET)

    The Canucks get a pretty rough start this season, as they almost immediately head back east for a bout with the Eastern heavyweight Philadelphia Flyers. This could be a huge matchup with ramifications as to which conference will carry away the Stanley Cup this season.


    Boston Bruins vs. Carolina Hurricanes (7:30 p.m. ET)

    Boston will face Carolina for the first of four times this season, and the game will hold special significance as Tomas Kaberle will face the team with which he won the Stanley Cup for the first time. It should be a particularly interesting matchup, as it's a good stern test to the Hurricanes to see if they've got what it takes to contend this season.

Thursday: October 16, 2011

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    A full slate of 10 games is sure to have the first week of NHL action going out with a bang, including some already enormous matchups.

    Los Angeles Kings vs. New Jersey Devils (7 p.m. ET)

    The Kings first game back on the domestic side of the Atlantic certainly doesn't get any easier for them, as they face a talented Devils team in New Jersey. Ilya Kovalchuck, Zach Parise and Co. will be looking to get off to a hot start to this year, and a win against one of the best in the West would be a great way to do so. They need to avoid starting as slowly as they did last season, which ultimately condemned them at the end of the year.


    Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET)

    The rivalry between these two powerhouses will come alive again, and early in the season this time in a game that will have virtually all eyes around the NHL focused on it. A healthy Crosby and dangerous looking Penguins will have a tough time containing a fired-up Ovechkin who loves to throw points on the board against the Pens. This could potentially wind up an Eastern Conference Finals preview.


    Vancouver Canucks vs. Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m. ET)

    A showdown between two of the best teams in the West could also have some serious playoff implications this season as the Red Wings take on the Canucks in Detroit. This will answer a lot of questions about both teams, as they could be potentially meeting in the second round of the playoffs.


    Winnipeg Jets vs. Chicago Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. ET)

    Winnipeg fans have a long wait between their first and second games, as this is just their second contest of the year on the road in Chicago. While the Jets will be traveling East, they will in actuality be playing an inter-conference game with the Blackhawks in a scheduling oddity that will be resolved next season.


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