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Ten to Watch in 2010-11

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
With the Flyers set to defend their Eastern Conference title this year, there are sure to be a number of teams in the NHL that will be gunning for Philadelphia when the 2010-11 season gets underway on October 7. Below is a brief look at 10 key matchups next season (five at home and five on the road), now that the complete NHL regular season schedule was revealed on Tuesday.

Please note all broadcast information will be released later on this summer.

Thursday October 7
Flyers @ Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins surely wanted one of their main rivals to open up their brand new arena, the Consol Energy Center, and, well, the Flyers are probably the best choice. One of the best rivalries in the NHL, Flyers-Penguins games rarely disappoint, as the two teams will likely once again be battling for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. Obviously, this one is a must-see.

Thursday, November 4
Flyers vs. NY Rangers

Another Atlantic Division rival, the Rangers make their first appearance at the Wachovia Center since a season-ending shootout victory by the Flyers on April 11 last season sent the Rangers home and sprung Philadelphia’s exhilarating run to the Stanley Cup Final. Henrik Lundqvist, who almost singlehandedly won that final game for the Rangers before Matt Carle’s goal tied it at 1-1 in the third period, will likely be the key to New York’s success (or lack thereof) this season.
Matt Carle scores the tying goal against Henrik Lundqvist New York Rangers in the final game of the regular season on April 11, 2010. The Flyers won in a shootout, 2-1. (Getty Images)

Wednesday, December 8
Flyers vs. San Jose Sharks

Perennial regular season powerhouse (and playoff underachiever), the San Jose Sharks make an appearance in Philadelphia in December. Led by the trio of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley, stopping the Sharks offense is always one of the biggest challenges in the NHL. The clubs played twice last season early, with the Sharks coming away with a 4-1 victory at HP Pavilion on October 25 and a 6-3 win on November 20 at the Wachovia Center. It will be the fourth straight year the Sharks visit the Flyers.

Saturday, December 11
Flyers @ Boston Bruins

The Bruins and their fans will likely circle the game on their calendars, as it marks the first appearance by the Flyers in Boston since their epic come-from-behind series victory in the second round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. By then, the Bruins roster will likely feature either rookie Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall, as Boston owns the second overall pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles later this week.

Tuesday, December 28
Flyers @ Vancouver Canucks

In what is a bit of an odd tradition (although it didn’t happen last season), the Flyers will visit Vancouver shortly after the Christmas holiday. It’s a tradition that hasn’t exactly been favorable to the Canucks, as Philadelphia owns a 14-game unbeaten streak in Vancouver, a span that has lasted nearly 20 years. The Flyers have 10 wins and four ties since they last lost to the Canucks on the road, 5-3 on Jan. 17, 1989. The Canucks won the only matchup between the two teams last year, 3-0 on December 3 in Philadelphia. It’s also the start of a four-game road trip for the Flyers.

Sunday, January 2
Flyers @ Detroit Red Wings

Since it will undoubtedly be mentioned time and time again as this one approaches, let’s get it out of the way here, first – the Flyers have not won a game in Detroit since the Reagan administration. They will get a chance again in February, when they take an 0-14-2 record that dates back to November 1988 into Joe Louis Arena. The teams last met there on St. Patrick’s Day 2009, when Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk beat Martin Biron in the third period to spark the Red Wings to a 3-2 come-from-behind win.

Sunday, January 23
Flyers @ Chicago Blackhawks

In their only meeting of the season, the Flyers and Blackhawks will meet at Chicago’s United Center in late January. It will, obviously, be the first game between the two teams since the Stanley Cup Final victory by Chicago. In what was the most exciting finish to a regular season game at home last year (except for the aforementioned shootout win against the Rangers), Chris Pronger scored with just 2.1 seconds left in regulation after Scott Hartnell had tied the game late in the third on March 13 to give Philadelphia a 3-2 victory.

Tuesday, February 22
Flyers vs. Phoenix Coyotes
Detroit Red Wings' Chris Osgood, left, blocks a shot by Philadelphia Flyers' Danny Briere in the third period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, April 4, 2010, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won 4-3. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The biggest pleasant surprise in the NHL of last season, the Phoenix Coyotes will make a rare Philadelphia appearance in February. Phoenix and Philadelphia swapped a pair of popular players at the trade deadline in 2009, when Daniel Carcillo was acquired in exchange for Scottie Upshall, who recently signed for another season with the Coyotes.

Thursday, March 3
Flyers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Although the Flyers-Maple Leafs rivalry has diminished a bit over the years due to Toronto missing the playoffs for the last five seasons, there’s a good chance Toronto could be among the most improved clubs this year. The Leafs played well down the stretch after adding players like Dion Phaneuf (their newly named captain) and goaltender J.S. Giguere, and appear poised to make more moves this offseason. It’s hard to believe that the Maple Leafs haven’t been in a playoff game since Jeremy Roenick’s overtime goal in the second round in 2004 ended their run that year, but they could very well be in the hunt when they make their second visit of the season to Philadelphia.

Saturday, April 9
Flyers vs. NY Islanders

It’s unlikely the final game of the regular season this year will be as meaningful as it was last season, with a playoff birth on the line between the Flyers and Rangers. Regardless, the New York Islanders will visit the Wachovia Center as the 82-game slate comes to a conclusion. The Islanders should be a better club than last year, with young players John Tavares and Kyle Okposo having another year under their belts and New York owning the fifth pick in this year’s draft. Even if New York falters once again it’s a good bet the game will have some meaning, at least in terms of playoff seeding.
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