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10 BIG GAMES TO WATCH

Open with the Oilers and close with the Golden Knights - gonna be a great season!

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

The Flames open their season up north against a most bitter old rival and close185 nights later at home to the league's newest entry. The 2016-2017 official Flames regular-season schedule is out and another playoff berth is the aim. Your Flames Insider George Johnson gives you a few extra-special dates to circle on your calendar:

HOME

Vs. Pittsburgh: Thursday, Nov. 2, 7 p.m.

Grab every remaining chance you can to see Sidney Crosby, the finest player of his generation, live. On this night, ex-Flame Mike Sullivan and his Pens return to southern Alberta as the first back-to-back Cup champs since the '97-'98 Red Wings.

Vs. Toronto: Tuesday, Nov. 28, 7 p.m.

Given their powerful historical appeal, any visit by the Leafs causes a stir but coming on the back of a post-season appearance and featuring Calder Trophy-winner Auston Matthews, the hype machine is bound to be in full flower for this one.

Vs. Nashville, Saturday, Dec. 16th, 8 p.m.

Over an astounding two-month run, the Preds morphed into the feel-good story of the 2017 playoffs, pushing all the way to the Stanley Cup final, capturing the imagination of fence-sitters everywhere and making catfish a craze. The visit by Rinne, Subban, Johansen, Ellis and the rest should make for a great tilt.  

Vs. Chicago: Sunday, Dec. 31, 7 p.m.

This New Year's Eve offering has plenty to warrant popping open the noise makers and unfurling the streamers. Captain Serious Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and that fabled Original Six ChiHawks livery still commands the power to entrance.

Vs. Las Vegas: Tuesday, Jan. 30th, 7 p.m.

The new boys inaugural visit to the Saddledome. So much discussion surrounded the type of lineup the Golden Knights would field in Year 1. Well, here you go. Judge for yourself. A warm welcome back, Deryk Engelland. And they're a division rival in the bargain.

AWAY

At Edmonton: Wednesday, Oct. 4, 9 p.m. 

Flames will be seeking to atone for a 7-4 curtain-raising loss to the Oilers up north in their opener a year ago. Both teams reached the post-season a year ago, propelled by compelling figures the likes of Johnny Gaudreau and Edmonton's freshly-minted Hart Trophy-winning kiddie captain Connor McDavid. That once-bristling rivalry laying dormant for so long is finally back on!

At Anaheim: Monday, Oct. 9, 7 p.m.

Another chance to end Calgary's lengthy winless streak at the Honda Centre. Might as well get it out of the way early. If that motivation wasn't enough to get the ol' juices flowing, two playoff series losses over the past three springtimes have ratcheted up the dislike between these Pacific Division foes to toxic levels.

At Montreal: Thursday, Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m.

Any visit to the Bell Centre to face the Habs and THAT jersey begs for attention. More compellingly, it's the second game of a back-to-back Toronto-Montreal double-bill, pitting the Flames against hockey's two most fabled franchises.

At Las Vegas: Wednesday, Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m.

In a year of firsts for the NHL's 31st franchise, this marks the Flames' inaugural visit to the $375 million, 17,500-seat T-Mobile Arena opened in early April of 2016. With the stretch run in sight and the LVGK nestled besides the Flames in the Pacific Division, this one takes on even greater importance.

At Arizona: Thursday, Feb. 22, 7 p.m.

The business end of a back-to-back set that opens in Vegas. Just another ho-hum, run-of-the-mill Thursday in Glendale? Hardly. We're talking goaltender Mike Smith's return to Gila River Arena after six years as backbone of the 'Yotes.

 

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