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10 must-see games in 2016-17

Penguins-Sharks rematch, four outdoor games among intriguing matchups during NHL's 100th season

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

The NHL will be celebrating its 100th season in 2016-17, and it's sure to be a memorable one.

Each of the 30 teams' home openers was released on Monday and the entire 1,230-game regular-schedule was revealed on Tuesday. Though the 2016 NHL Draft takes place later this week at First Niagara Center in Buffalo on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports) and Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports 2), and free agency doesn't begin until July 1, there are still plenty of games to look forward to no matter what happens in the coming weeks.

Here's a look at 10 must-see games:

Oct. 12, 2016: Calgary Flames at Edmonton Oilers (Rogers Place first regular-season game)

After calling Rexall Place home from 1974-2016 (including five seasons in the World Hockey Association), the Oilers begin the 2016-17 season at their new home; Rogers Place. Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier helped the Oilers win the Stanley Cup five times in seven seasons from 1984-90, and now Connor McDavid hopes to get the Oilers back in playoff contention. The No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft had 16 goals and 48 points in 45 games in 2015-16 and is a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie. The Oilers will open their new home against their Alberta rival.

Oct. 13, 2016: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins (Penguins home opener)

 

On the second night of the season, the Penguins will raise their fourth Stanley Cup banner against the Capitals at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Conn Smythe Trophy winner Sidney Crosby and the Penguins defeated the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals in six games in their Eastern Conference Second Round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs before defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games in the conference final and the San Jose Sharks in the Cup Final in six games. Crosby and Alex Ovechkin will again renew their rivalry in a game that's sure to have plenty of emotion.

Oct. 19, 2016: Toronto Maple Leafs at Winnipeg Jets (possible Auston Matthews-Patrick Laine showdown)

This game will feature the top two picks in the 2016 NHL Draft, barring a trade. The Maple Leafs have the No. 1 pick and are likely to select center Auston Matthews; the Jets have the No. 2 pick and likely will take forward Patrik Laine. Matthews is considered by many to be the top pick, but Laine said at the Scouting Combine earlier in June that he "has the ability to someday become the best player in the NHL," and that "Toronto has a tough decision to make." This could be the start of a Crosby-Ovechkin like rivalry. This game will be at MTS Centre in Winnipeg; the teams also play Feb. 21 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Oct. 20, 2016: San Jose Sharks at Pittsburgh Penguins (Stanley Cup Final rematch)

The Sharks, who had to watch the Penguins celebrate winning the Stanley Cup on their ice, will get a chance at revenge when the teams meet at Consol Energy Center for the first time since Game 6 of the Final, when the Penguins defeated the Sharks, 3-1 to win their fourth championship. Pittsburgh visits SAP Center in San Jose on Nov. 5 for the return match series.

Oct. 23, 2016: Edmonton Oilers at Winnipeg Jets (2016 Tim Horton's NHL Heritage Classic)

The fourth installment of the Heritage Classic (and first since 2014 in Vancouver) will take place at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. It will mark the Jets' first appearance in an outdoor game.

Jan. 1, 2017: Detroit Red Wings at Toronto Maple Leafs (2017 NHL Centennial Classic)

The rematch of the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, won by the Maple Leafs 3-2 in a shootout at Michigan Stadium, will be held at BMO Field in Toronto, home of the CFL's Toronto Argonauts and Toronto FC of Major League Soccer. It's appropriate that two Original Six teams will be playing in this game, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the NHL. The Maple Leafs will have help, with the No. 1 pick in the draft, likely center Auston Matthews. Mike Babcock will also look to defeat the Red Wings, the team he coached for 10 seasons before taking over the Maple Leafs in 2015-16. He lost three of four games against his old team.

Jan. 2, 2017: Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues (2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic)

The defending Stanley Cup-champion Blackhawks were ousted in the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Blues. St. Louis finished four points ahead of Chicago in the tough Central Division and both teams should be competing for the crown again this season. This will be the first outdoor game for the Blues; it will played at Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals. It's the third Winter Classic appearance for Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Co. (2009, 2015) and Chicago's fifth outdoor game, having also played in Coors Light Stadium Series games in 2014 and 2016.

Feb. 25, 2017: Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins (2017 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series)

The Penguins and Flyers take their rivalry outside to Heinz Field, home of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh took three of four games from Philadelphia in the 2015-16 season series; prior to that, the Flyers had won the past eight regular-season games between the teams. These teams don't like each other and you can bet the Flyers will have some extra motivation to defeat Crosby and the Stanley Cup- champion Penguins.

March 3, 2017: Toronto Maple Leafs at Anaheim Ducks (Frederik Andersen returns to Anaheim)

This game was probably already circled for Randy Carlyle, the new coach of the Ducks; he hadn't coached in the NHL since 2015, when he was fired by the Maple Leafs. It will also be goalie Frederik Andersen's return to Honda Center, where he played for three seasons and compiled a 77-26-12 record, 2.33 goals-against average and .918 save percentage before he was traded to the Maple Leafs on Monday. Andersen led the Ducks to three straight Pacific Division titles and helped get them within one win of the Stanley Cup Final in 2015.

April 9, 2017: New Jersey Devils at Detroit Red Wings (Last regular-season game at Joe Louis Arena)

"The Joe" has been the home of the Red Wings since 1980, and this will be the final season before they move into their new home, Little Caesars Arena, in 2017-18. Detroit will end the regular season with back-to-back home games against the Montreal Canadiens on April 8 and the Devils on the following day. The Red Wings have won the Stanley Cup four times since the arena opened, including twice on home ice (1997, 2002). They will be trying to extend their time at Joe Louis Arena by qualifying for the playoffs for the 26th consecutive season.

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