MONTREAL – Grab a pencil and prepare to circle a few big dates on your calendar – the 2010-11 NHL schedule is now available.
For a tenth straight season the Canadiens will open the year with a heated battle in Toronto, kicking off the new campaign on October 7. Keeping with tradition, the Habs will end the year exactly like they start it, with the annual closing match-up against the Leafs scheduled for April 9.
Habs fans will have to wait until October 13 to see their 2009-10 Eastern Conference finalists in action on home ice, when they’ll welcome Guy Boucher and the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Bell Centre for opening night.
In 2010-11, the Canadiens will play each of their North-East Division rivals (Boston, Buffalo, Ottawa and Toronto) six times and add four more match-ups against the rest of their competition in the East. The final 18 games will be against cross-conference rivals, including one game against every Western Conference opponent and two apiece against Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
Another marquee match-up to look out for is the April 5 tilt against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, in addition to the suddenly-a-lot-more-interesting rivalry with the Blues and netminder Jaroslav Halak on March 10 in St. Louis.
The longest road swing of the season will, as usual, take place during the holiday season, with the team set to leave the friendly confines of the Bell Centre for seven consecutive games between December 19 and 31.
But before the puck drops on the 102nd season in Montreal, Habs fans have seven preseason games – including five at home – to look forward to beginning September 22. Quebec City will also be welcoming NHL hockey back to the Colisee, with an October 2 game between the Habs and Islanders on the docket. Alexandre Harvey is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.See also:Regular season calendar Preseason calendarKing Carey rules again Play our "Pick the pick" game Season review – Mathieu Darche