The 2010-11 season is barely in the record books, but it's already time to look ahead. The NHL unveiled its 2011-12 schedule Thursday. The season begins on Oct. 6 with three games and ends with a bang on April 7, when all 30 teams are in action -- and the season concludes on a Saturday rather than a Sunday. Each team will play 82 games -- 24 against teams in its own division, 40 against non-division teams in its own conference and the other 18 against teams from the other conference.
Here’s a look at some of the more interesting numbers for the upcoming season:
NEW YORK -- The Boston Bruins raise a Stanley Cup championship banner for the first time since 1972 and Winnipeg welcomes the National Hockey League back to town after a 15-year hiatus when the 2011-12 NHL regular season commences in October. The League announced the full regular-season schedule for all 30 teams on Thursday.
It's the final Saturday of the regular season, but the 16-team field for the Stanley Cup Playoffs still isn’t complete.
While the Western half of the bracket won't be determined until Sunday, the eighth and final team in the East could be known by mid-afternoon. The New York Rangers desperately need a win when they host New Jersey at 12:30 p.m. ET in the first of the 11 games on Saturday's schedule. The Rangers are coming off a 3-0 home loss to Atlanta on Thursday and have 91 points -- the same as Carolina, but the Hurricanes own the tiebreakers.
Now playing without the injured Ryan Callahan, the New York Rangers' intense chase for a playoff spot will be televised nationally on Thursday night.
New York, which is just two points ahead of Carolina after the Hurricanes earned a 3-0 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday, will host the Atlanta Thrashers at Madison Square Garden. Game time is slated for 7 p.m. ET and can be seen on Versus in the U.S. The Rangers lost Callahan indefinitely after he suffered a broken leg blocking a shot in the final minute of Monday's 5-3 win against Boston.
With just five days left in the regular season, the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks still haven't locked up a playoff berth. They'll try to take another step toward one on Wednesday, but they'll have to beat one of their biggest rivals to do so.
The Hawks, eighth in the West, host the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Both teams have been off since Sunday, when the Blues routed the Blue Jackets 6-1 at Columbus while the Hawks lost 2-0 at home to Tampa Bay.
Versus will air the game in the United States at 8 p.m. ET.
The Pittsburgh Penguins' chase for the No. 4 seed continues on national television Tuesday night.
Pittsburgh, which is just one point ahead of Tampa Bay in the battle for home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, will host the New Jersey Devils at the Consol Energy Center. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on Versus in the U.S. The Pens have won seven of their last 10 games.
The New York Rangers picked up two big points in Philadelphia on Sunday on national television. They'll have a chance to do it again on home ice Monday night.
The Rangers, who moved two points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes for the final playoff spot in the East on Sunday, will face the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on Versus in the U.S.
It's been four years since the Tampa Bay Lightning have been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They can end that drought on Thursday night by beating the team they could potentially see in the opening round.
The Lightning can become the fifth team Eastern Conference team to punch its ticket for the playoffs by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins at the St. Pete Times Forum in one of 10 games on Thursday's schedule. The Bolts, fifth in the East, moved closer to clinching a playoff berth when they beat Ottawa 5-2 on Tuesday, the same night the fourth-place Penguins lost 5-2 at home to Philadelphia.
The game starts at 7:30 p.m. ET, as does Ottawa's visit to the Florida Panthers.
Thursday's action gets under way a half-hour earlier with four games.
The Sabres host the Rangers in one of the five games on the NHL schedule. Buffalo enters the game eighth in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the Rangers -- the Sabres missed a chance to pull even on Tuesday when they lost 4-3 in Toronto. The Rangers have been off since Saturday's 1-0 win at Boston.
Versus will air the game in the United States, beginning at 7 p.m. ET.
After winning in dramatic fashion on national television Monday night, the Chicago Blackhawks hope to do it again on Tuesday.
The defending Stanley Cup champs, who won at Detroit on Monday night thanks to an overtime goal by Marian Hossa, continue their playoff push on Tuesday against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on VERSUS in the U.S. and TSN2 in Canada.