NHL Preview 2011-12: Each Team's Biggest Must-See Game of the Season

April WeinerCorrespondent ISeptember 1, 2011

NHL Preview 2011-12: Each Team's Biggest Must-See Game of the Season

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    Everyone hockey fan is just excited for the 2011-12 NHL season to get underway on October 6, regardless of who's playing. 

    There are a lot of must-see games this season though. 

    With all the offseason moves, it will be interesting to see former players return and play in their former home arena and in front of the hometown fans. 

    Other games to look forward to are the rematches between teams who lost in the playoffs and the teams that eliminated them.

    Finally, there are always the staples: rivalry games. 

    Here is each team's most anticipated game of the 2011-12 NHL season. 

Anaheim Ducks

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    Must-see Game: October 29 Anaheim Ducks at Nashville Predators

    October 29 will be the first time that the Anaheim Ducks face the Nashville Predators, since the Predators eliminated the Ducks in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

    Even though beating a team in the regular season doesn't make up for losing to them in the Stanley Cup playoffs, it'll make the Ducks feel good to beat the Preds at home. 

    The entire Ducks schedule can be found here.  

Boston Bruins

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    Must-see Game: October 6 Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins

    Boston Bruins fans are excited for the 2011-12 season to begin, to see if their team can successfully defend the Stanley Cup.

    They'll open the season with a must-see game, hosting the Philadelphia Flyers on opening night. 

    It'll be the first time the two teams face each other since the Bruins swept the Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals last spring. 

    The two teams have begun a great rivalry, with the Flyers coming back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Bruins in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs. 

    The Flyers have changed immensely and the Bruins have kept most of their team intact. It will be interesting to see which side wins this matchup and the rest of the regular season matchups. 

    The entire Bruins schedule can be found here.  

Buffalo Sabres

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    Must-see Game: November 2 Philadelphia Flyers vs. Buffalo Sabres

    The Buffalo Sabres will face the Philadelphia Flyers for the first time in the 2011-12 season when they host them on November 2.

    The two teams had a very testy ECQF back in the spring, with questionable hits and a lot of back-and-forth between the two teams

    Plus, in an added twist, Ville Leino will now be on the other side, signing with Buffalo in the offseason.

    Expect all of this history to have an impact on that game, which makes it a must-see matchup.  

    The entire Sabres schedule can be found here.   

Calgary Flames

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    Must-see Game: November 4 Calgary Flames at Buffalo Sabres

    During NHL draft weekend, the Calgary Flames shed some salary by sending Robyn Regehr, Ales Kotalik and a future draft pick to the Buffalo Sabres. In return, they received Chris Butler and Paul Byron.

    The two teams will face each other the first time since the trade on November 4 in Buffalo.

    It will be interesting to see where the Sabres are versus where the Flames are and which team wins that matchup.

    It'll also give Regehr the opportunity to prove that Calgary should have kept him, or for Calgary to show that they're better off now.

    The entire Flames schedule can be found here

Carolina Hurricanes

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    Must-see Game: November 23 Montreal Canadiens at Carolina Hurricanes

    This summer, Erik Cole left the Hurricanes and signed with the Canadiens during free agency. The two teams will first face each other November 16 in Montreal, but the Hurricanes will host Cole and the Canadiens on the 23rd.

    It will be interesting to see how the teams play and how the Carolina fans welcome Cole back to Raleigh.  

    The entire Hurricanes schedule can be found here.  

Chicago Blackhawks

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    Must-See Game: November 6 Vancouver Canucks vs. Chicago Blackhawks

    After two years of knocking the Vancouver Canucks from the playoffs, this past postseason, the Blackhawks ended up being the ones bounced.

    The two teams will face each other for the first time on November 6 in Chicago.

    Additionally, newly signed Blackhawks forward Dan Carcillo added fuel to the fire in his introduction press conference, firing shots at Canucks' Maxim Lapierre.

    It should be a good game between the two teams and seeing if Carcillo lives up to his words or Lapierre has a response for him. 

    The entire Blackhawks schedule can be found here.  

Colorado Avalanche

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    Must-See Game: December 17 Washington Capitals vs. Colorado Avalanche

    The Washington Capitals traded Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche this offseason. The Capitals didn't need Varlamov anymore after signing Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth as their goaltender of the future.

    Varlamov believes that he deserves to be and is good enough to be a No. 1 goaltender and obviously, the Avalanche agree.

    That game will be Varlamov's opportunity to shut the Caps out, to make the team regret trading him. 

    The Avalanche's entire schedule can be found here

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Must-See Game: November 5 Columbus Blue Jackets at Philadelphia Flyers

    The Philadelphia Flyers shocked Jeff Carter this summer by trading him to the Columbus Blue Jackets, after just signing him to a long-term deal.

    Carter will first face the Flyers when he returns to Philadelphia with Columbus on November 5.

    It should be difficult for him to return to play in Philadelphia, but we shall see how he plays against them at home, probably getting a loud reaction from the crowd.

    The Blue Jackets entire schedule can be found here.  

Dallas Stars

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    Must-See Game: December 13 Dallas Stars at New York Rangers

    The Dallas Stars' financial constraints prevented them from being able to re-sign Brad Richards to the type of deal he garnered on the free market.

    Richards signed with the Rangers as a free agent.

    Even though Richards probably understands is happier to play in New York than in Dallas, he'll still want to welcome his former team to his new arena by playing very well against them.

    That's what makes this a must-see game: which side gets the better of the other in the game.

    The Stars entire schedule can be found here.  

Detroit Red Wings

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    Must-see Game: October 28 San Jose Sharks vs. Detroit Red Wings

    The San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings are beginning a little rivalry, as two of the top teams in the Western Conference.

    They have faced each other in the playoffs the past two years and the Sharks got the better of the Wings both times.

    The Wings will welcome the Sharks to Detroit on October 28 and look to beat them and start to make up for those playoff eliminations.

    The Wings entire schedule can be found here.  

Edmonton Oilers

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    Must-see Game: November 3 Edmonton Oilers at Los Angeles Kings

    On November 3rd, the Los Angeles Kings will host the Edmonton Oilers. Judging by the two team's history this summer, it won't be a very warm welcome.

    The Oilers traded Ryan Smyth to Edmonton, per his request to finish his career closer to home.

    However, the players that the Oilers tried to give L.A. in exchange for Smyth ended up having more serious health issues than Edmonton had disclosed.

    Needless to say, Kings GM Dean Lombardi is unhappy with the Oilers organization and it will be interesting to see if that tension translates to the ice as well. 

    The Oilers entire schedule can be found here

Florida Panthers

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    Must-see Game: October 18 Florida Panthers at Washington Capitals

    The Florida Panthers have made a lot of new additions this summer in free agency and former Washington Capital Matt Bradley is one of them.

    Bradley has gotten some attention for comments he made about former teammate Alexander Semin and former coach Bruce Boudreau.

    Bradley was a fan favorite in Washington, but we'll see how much of a warm welcome he'll receive when he returns to Verizon Center in October.

    Also, maybe Semin will want to make sure he has a great game that night. 

    The entire Panthers schedule can be found here.  

Los Angeles Kings

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    Must-see Game: October 15 Los Angeles Kings at Philadelphia Flyers

    The Philadelphia Flyers traded away their captain, Mike Richards, this summer to the Los Angeles Kings. It won't be too long until they meet him with his new team again.

    The Flyers will welcome Richards and the Kings just a couple weeks into the season.

    It'll be a difficult game probably, for Richards and for the Flyers fans. After all, most fans loved Richards for all the goods and bads about him and it'll be hard to see him in another uniform.

    It'll be a tough game though, as that's both Richards and the Flyers' game and Richards will want to make the team regret trading him.

    The Kings entire schedule can be found here.  

Minnesota Wild

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    Must-see Game: November 10 Minnesota Wild at San Jose Sharks

    The Minnesota Wild had a very active offseason, making multiple big trades with the San Jose Sharks.

    First, they sent Brent Burns to San Jose for Devin Setoguchi and Charlie Coyle. Then, they picked up Dany Heatley in exchange for Martin Havlat.

    It will be interesting to see which team is the better team paired up against one another, which we will get the answer to on November 10.

    The former Sharks will get a homecoming and hope they'll get a win as well. 

    The Wild's entire schedule can be found here.   

Montreal Canadiens

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    Must-see Game: October 6 Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs

    The Montreal Canadiens are kicking off the 2011-12 NHL season in Toronto facing the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    The Canadiens and Leafs have the longest-standing rivalry and will be opening the season, making it a must-see game.

    These rivalry games are always awesome and the first one of the season sets the tone for the rest of the season.

    The entire Canadiens schedule can be found here.  

Nashville Predators

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    Must-see Game: October 20 Nashville Predators at Vancouver Canucks

    The Nashville Predators finally won their first playoff series by defeating the Anaheim Ducks, but their hopes of going any farther were dashed by the Vancouver Canucks.

    The Predators will face the Canucks for the first time since then on October 20th, when they travel to Vancouver.

    The Predators entire schedule can be found here.  

New Jersey Devils

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    Must-see Game: October 8 Philadelphia Flyers vs. New Jersey Devils

    While the Flyers and Devils are division rivals, that's not why this is a must-see game. It's a must-see game because its the opening night and the first time Zach Parise will play since his season ended early last season.

    Perhaps Parise will get his return off on a high-note, dare to dream that he might score a hat trick to celebrate his return?

    Tune in October 8 to find out.

    The Devils entire schedule can be found here.  

New York Islanders

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    Must-see Game: October 25 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders

    The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders had a couple of high-intensity games last season, with a goalies fight and many other fights to follow.

    The two teams probably won't take that back up again this season, but one never knows. 

    It's probably best to tune in, just in case. 

    The Islanders entire schedule can be found here.   

New York Rangers

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    Must-see Game: October 27 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New York Rangers

    There are many must-see games of the New York Rangers next season. Games against the Washington Capitals, who eliminated them from the playoffs last season and Brad Richards first game facing the Dallas Stars.

    However, an even more prospective exciting game is the first game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Why?

    Because Richards turned down the Leafs for a longer contract and better chance of winning another Cup in New York.

    Perhaps the Leafs will be a little offended by that.

    The Rangers entire schedule can be found here.  

Ottawa Senators

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    Must-see Game: November 12 Ottawa Senators at Toronto Maple Leafs

    The Hall of Fame game will be played on November 12 in Toronto, as the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Ottawa Senators.

    The festivities will be the best part, but the game itself could be very entertaining as well.

    After all, the Senators now have more enforcers that might like to show off in the high-pressure situation and the division rivals could be close together in the standings at this point.

    The Senators entire schedule can be found here.  

Philadelphia Flyers

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    Must-see Game: January 2 New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers

    The Philadelphia Flyers have a lot of must-see games this coming season as well, including hosting Mike Richards return to Philadelphia as a member of the Los Angeles Kings, the return of Jeff Carter and Ilya Bryzgalov facing his former team too.

    One of the most anticipated games of the Flyers season though, is the Winter Classic that they will probably be hosting at Citizens Bank Park, once it is officially announced.

    The Flyers were entertaining in their first Winter Classic and should be even more as hosts against a division rival (not to mention the rivalry between the cities).

    If you don't tune in, you're not a true hockey fan.

    The Flyers entire schedule can be found here.  

Phoenix Coyotes

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    Must-see Game: November 17 Phoenix Coyotes at Philadelphia Flyers

    This summer, the Phoenix Coyotes traded the signing rights to Ilya Bryzgalov to the Philadelphia Flyers, who subsequently locked him down long-term.

    Bryzgalov will face his former team for the first time on November 17th, when the Flyers host the Coyotes at Wells Fargo Center.

    It'll be Bryzgalov's opportunity to play his best and the Coyotes opportunity to best him.

    The Coyotes entire schedule can be found here.  

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Must-see Game: Sidney Crosby's first game back (whenever that is)

    We still don't know when Sidney Crosby will be back playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins; whether it's opening night against the Vancouver Canucks or sometime after that.

    However, whenever it is, people will be interested to watch.

    Even if you hate him, you're still interested to see how he plays, if he can continue where he left off from last season.

    For the sake of Crosby and the fans, hopefully this will happen sooner rather than later.

    The Penguins entire schedule can be found here.  

San Jose Sharks

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    Must-see Game: November 26 Vancouver Canucks vs. San Jose Sharks.

    The San Jose Sharks made it back to the Western Conference Finals last season, but they were eliminated by the Vancouver Canucks.

    The Sharks will host the Canucks at the Shark Tank on November 26, the first time they face Vancouver since the WCF.

    It should be a very hard-fought game and a can't-miss.

    The Canucks entire schedule can be found here.  

St. Louis Blues

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    Must-see Game: November 29 St. Louis Blues at Washington Capitals

    The St. Louis Blues signed Jason Arnott over the summer. Arnott had previously played for the Washington Capitals, after being traded there at the trade deadline from the New Jersey Devils.

    Arnott had a positive effect on the team in his short tenure there, especially upon linemate Alexander Semin, who is notoriously hard to figure out. 

    Arnott didn't seem too attached to the team though, as evidenced by his exit interview.

    This leads one to believe that it was his decision not to re-sign with the team, not necessarily the team not re-signing him.

    If that's the case, it should be interesting to see how he fares against his former team.

    The Blues entire schedule can be found here.  

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Must-see Game: October 8 Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins

    The Tampa Bay Lightning should have an exciting season ahead of them. It will be interesting to see how the team follows up their successful and somewhat surprising 2010-11 season.

    In the first three games, the Lightning will face two of their opponents from the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs: visiting the Boston Bruins October 8 and then the Washington Capitals.

    This first game facing the team that kept them from the SCF will be a great game and it will be good for the team to see how they stack up against the defending champions at the beginning of the season.

    The Lightning's entire schedule can be found here.  

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Must-see Game: October 6 Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

    The Toronto Maple Leafs will open the 2011-12 NHL season by hosting the rival Montreal Canadiens.

    The two teams always play each other hard and at their best, which makes these games all thrilling. That's why the teams will be opening the season for the NHL.

    This game will also set the tone for the rest of the season's games between the two foes—if there's any sort of tension, this game might be the start of it.

    It's like watching a TV show from the first episode; it's easier to know what's going on than if you come in late.

    The Maple Leafs entire schedule can be found here.  

Vancouver Canucks

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    Must-see Game: January 7 Vancouver Canucks at Boston Bruins

    The Vancouver Canucks finally got past the Chicago Blackhawks, through the WCSF and the WCF, to finally make it back to the Stanley Cup Finals.

    There, they came one game shy of the franchise's first Stanley Cup, losing to the Boston Bruins.

    It'll be awhile before the two teams face each other again: January 7th to be exact.

    That might actually make the game even more interesting; since the tension can be building. Plus, it'll be a better time to see how the teams stack up against one another, halfway through the season.

    The Canucks entire schedule can be found here.  

Washington Capitals

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    Must-see Game: October 10 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals

    The Washington Capitals have played well against the Tampa Bay Lightning for the past few seasons, winning the vast majority of the matchups.

    However, this past season, the Lightning were a significantly improved team and gave the Caps a run for their money in the Southeast Division.

    Then, when the two faced each other in the postseason, the Lightning swept the Capitals in the second round.

    The Caps were embarrassed will bring their A game when they meet the Lightning in the second game of the season on October 10.

    The Capitals entire schedule can be found here.  

Winnipeg Jets

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    Must-see Game: October 9 Montreal Canadiens vs. Winnipeg Jets

    For 15 years, Winnipeggers have waited for the NHL to return to their city. Now, they finally got their wish and the new Winnipeg Jets will open their season and new franchise on October 9.

    In their first game, the Jets will host the Montreal Canadiens; fitting for the newest Canadian franchise to host the oldest one. 

    I'm going to make a wild guess and say that this will probably be one of the most-watched games of the 2011-12 season and definitely a must-see if one wants to experience history and the elation of the city of Winnipeg.

    The Jets entire schedule can be found here