For the Maple Leafs, it will be either Christmas blues or Christmas cheer.
If the Leafs are able to navigate December, they will be nicely poised for the 2008-2009 regular season.
The Leafs announced their schedule Thursday.
The team opens Thursday October 9 in Detroit, home of the Stanley Cup champion Red Wings.
The schedule, tweaked from recent years, will see the Maple Leafs playing every other team in the NHL. The Leafs, for example, will host the rarely seen Chicago Black Hawks (Nov. 22), Nashville Predators (Jan. 13), St. Louis Blues (Oct 10), Calgary Flames (Mar. 14) and Vancouver Canucks (Feb. 21).
Which brings the Leafs to a wicked December. The Leafs play three games in four nights with games in Los Angeles, San Jose and Phoenix. The Leafs play 14 times in the month and are at home for only five games. Toronto also visits Buffalo, Boston, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, the Islanders and Washington in December.
The Leafs close their season Saturday, April 11 with a game in Toronto against their rivals, the Senators.
For the first time, Molson Canadian Rivalry nights will bring a little more luster to longstanding rivalries.
Home games against Philadelphia, New York, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Montreal and Buffalo will reconnect fans with great rivalries of the past thanks to video flashbacks and promotions. Special tickets are being prepared to goose up the fun.
A renewed emphasis will make Leafs’ games more interactive and engaging than ever before.Watch for new characters in the crowd. The characters will circulate in the stands, meeting fans and handing out mementos and prizes.
Fans should watch for special promotions including bobblehead nights.
Once again, the Leafs will be a staple of Saturday night.
The Leafs 23 times on Saturday, more than any other night. Sixteen of those games are at Air Canada Centre. Tuesday is the Leafs’ second most popular night. They play 14 home games on Tuesday.