There's nothing like the arrival of the new NHL schedule to remind us that summer doesn't last forever. The 2013-14 schedule marks the first under the new two-conference, four-division setup that will move the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets to the Eastern Conference. There also will be a return to scheduling inter-conference games to ensure that all 30 teams play in all 30 arenas at least once.
There will be a break from Feb. 9-25 to accommodate the League's participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1, 2014, will be the first of a record six outdoor games -- including three in a five-day span in the final week of January.
Here are 10 of the 1,230 games on the 2013-14 schedule with some of the best potential storylines:
New York Rangers at Columbus Blue Jackets (Nov. 7, 2013) -- Rick Nash was the face of the Blue Jackets from the day they made him the first player chosen in the 2002 NHL Draft until they sent him to the New York Rangers last summer. Nash will play his first game as a visiting player at Nationwide Arena when the Rangers come to town for the first time this season. A side plot will be how well former Rangers sniper Marian Gaborik, who inherited Nash's role as top gun with the Blue Jackets when he was acquired from the Rangers late last season, fares against his former team.
Philadelphia Flyers at Tampa Bay Lightning (Nov. 27, 2013) -- No player has been more identified with the Tampa Bay Lightning than Vincent Lecavalier, dating to the day he was taken with the No. 1 pick of the 1998 NHL Draft. But the Lightning bought out the final seven years of Lecavalier's contract this summer, and the Philadelphia Flyers wasted no time signing him to a five-year contract. Expect a full house and plenty of cheers for Lecavalier -- at least until he does something positive for his new team.
Vancouver Canucks at New York Rangers (Nov. 30, 2013) -- It wasn't exactly a trade, but the Vancouver Canucks andNew York Rangers wound up swapping coaches during the offseason -- the Canucks fired Alain Vigneault, who was hired by the Rangers after they axed John Tortorella, only to have Vancouver hire Tortorella to run their bench. Tortorella was a lightning rod during his final season in the Big Apple, and after his surprising departure, it's likely there's nothing more he'd like than to beat his old team in the place he used to call home. Vigneault will have to wait until April 1 to visit his former home.
Detroit Red Wings at Ottawa Senators (Dec. 1, 2013) -- There likely won't be an empty seat at Canadian Tire Place when longtime Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson steps on the ice wearing the Winged Wheel in his first visit to Ottawa since signing with the Detroit Red Wings. The teams will be division rivals under the NHL's new setup, but the bigger question will be how the fans who cheered Alfredsson during his 17 seasons with Ottawa will react when he's playing for the other team.
Boston Bruins at Calgary Flames (Dec. 10, 2013) -- Speaking of homecomings, the newest Boston Bruin, Jarome Iginla, will play his first game against the team he spent his entire career with until being traded late last season. The Calgary Flames thought they had a deal to send their longtime captain to the Bruins, but he balked and wound up with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Boston signed Iginla, the face of the Flames for 16 seasons, to a one-year deal this summer, meaning he'll come back to Calgary with the team to which the Flames originally tried to trade him.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings (Jan. 1, 2014) -- What does a hockey game look like when 110,000 people (give or take a few) are watching it live? We'll find out New Year's Day, when this season's Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic matches a pair of Original Six rivals at Michigan Stadium, aka "The Big House," in Ann Arbor, Mich. The largest crowd in NHL history figures to pack the building to see the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings, who kick off a six-pack of outdoor games.
Anaheim Ducks at Los Angeles Kings (Jan. 25, 2014) -- There's never a lack of intensity when the Freeway Faceoff takes place, but the NHL is adding some extra spice by scheduling this game at Dodger Stadium -- the first time the League has slated a regular-season outdoor game in a warm-weather venue. NHL ice maker extraordinaire Dan Craig faces a big test even before the Southern California rivals step on the ice in the first of the four games in the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.
Ottawa Senators at Vancouver Canucks (March 2, 2014) -- Call this one the NHL's first indoor-outdoor game. The third edition of the Tim Horton's Heritage Classic will match the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks at B.C. Place, a stadium used mostly for football that has a retractable roof -- meaning that there's no danger of playing in the same kind of frigid temperatures that greeted the first two Heritage Classics. This is the last of the NHL's six outdoor games and comes one day after thePittsburgh Penguins play the Chicago Blackhawks at Soldier Field.
Minnesota Wild at New Jersey Devils (March 20, 2014) -- Fans of the New Jersey Devils won't get to voice their opinion on last week's retirement ofIlya Kovalchuk, but they'll get their first chance to react to the July 2012 departure of Zach Parise when the Minnesota Wild come to Prudential Center. Like Kovalchuk, Parise left the Devils to go home -- but in his case, that meant Minnesota, where he was born, rather than Russia. Parise's first trip back to the Garden State should liven up what normally would be a run-of-the-mill inter-conference game.
Chicago Blackhawks at Boston Bruins (March 27, 2014) -- The last time the Chicago Blackhawks came to TD Garden was June 24, when two late goals in 17 seconds turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final -- meaning the Boston Bruins and their fans had to watch the Blackhawks celebrating a second championship in 36 months in their building. It won't be the same, but the Bruins would love to exact at least a smidgen of revenge -- and set the tone for a possible rematch in June.
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