Come Saturday night, it will be wall-to-wall hockey across North America.
All 30 NHL teams are in action, creating a dynamite opportunity for hockey fans to come together, crack open a favorite beverage and break out the tortillas and salsa. After all, it's hockey night in North America.
"This is only the second time we have had all 30 teams playing on one night since I've been here and actually, at around 9 p.m. (ET), we'll have 12 games going at once so I think I'll be glad when the night is finally over," said Kris King, the NHL's senior director of hockey operations in Toronto. "With reviews, goals and updates, it will be awfully hot in here. We'll have all hands on deck so we can cover everything. I guess I'm looking more forward to the next day (Oct. 26); a day off for everyone - it'll be well earned."
NHL.com will be on the scene, taking in all the sights, sounds and potential controversy, both in the war room in Toronto Saturday night, and at select games. So make it a point to check back on Saturday for a blow-by-blow account of all the action and how the League's hockey operations will work their magic to make the heavy slate an enjoyable one for fans across the globe.
There are five inter-divisional clashes to keep an eye on during Saturday's 15-game schedule. Here's the breakdown:
Pittsburgh at Rangers -- The Rangers won five of their eight meetings against the Penguins in the regular season in 2007-08, including all four at Madison Square Garden, but were eliminated by their Pennsylvania rival in the Eastern Conference semifinals in just five games. The Rangers (6-1-1) lead the Atlantic with 13 points and the Penguins (3-2-1) currently sit in third place with 7 points. Following his team's playoff loss in Game 5 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh last season, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said, "I just want to go home, take a few days, and just think and think, and see what I can learn from this and then move on."
Lundqvist undoubtedly has with a 4-1-1 record, 2.18 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.
New Jersey at Philadelphia -- The original starting time of 7 p.m. (ET) was moved to 4 p.m. to avoid a conflict with Game 3 of the 2008 World Series, marking the second time the Flyers have changed a game to avoid a similar problem with the neighboring Phillies. The Flyers-New York Islanders game at the Spectrum on Oct. 21, 1993 was moved to Oct. 22 to avoid a conflict with Game 5 of that World Series. The contest is the back end of a home-and-home set with the Devils, who won six of the eight games last season. The Flyers did, however, post a pair of shutouts over the Devils in 2007-08. The final three contests between the teams - two of which were won by the Devils - were decided via overtime or shootout.
Ottawa at Toronto -- The provincial rivals split the season series in 2007-08, but Ottawa scored an 8-2 victory in the series finale on April 3 in Toronto. Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson returned to the lineup Friday in a 6-3 victory over Phoenix one week after having right knee surgery and assisted on two of his team's three first-period goals. The Maple Leafs, 0-2-2 since an opening-night victory over the Detroit Red Wings, are still smarting after a disheartening 1-0 shootout loss to the New York Rangers Friday in Manhattan. It was the first time the Rangers and Maple Leafs were scoreless against each other through regulation since Dec. 8, 1956.
Detroit at Chicago -- The next time the Red Wings travel to Chicago, it will be to Wrigley Field for the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. Despite missing the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 seasons in 2007-08, the Blackhawks were still the first team in 15 seasons to win five games in a season against Detroit last year.
"I think we're going to have a tremendous rivalry with them," Red Wings GM Ken Holland said. "They beat us the first four times we played last season. Obviously, Chicago and Detroit have had a tremendous history being Original Six teams and Scotty Bowman, who was a big part of our success, has now joined Chicago to go work with his son in the front office, so that'll add a little spice to our rivalry. But I really look for Chicago to have a tremendous year and generate a tremendous amount of excitement, and we're obviously looking forward to playing them."
Edmonton at Vancouver -- The clubs split the season series in 2007-08 -- Edmonton winning three of the meetings via a shootout. Edmonton's rookie goalie, Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, made 26 saves Friday to help his team score a 4-3 victory over rival Calgary in his NHL debut. The Canucks are currently in the midst of a six-game road trip and Saturday's game against the Oilers will be their first home contest at GM Place since a season-opening 6-0 dusting of Calgary on Oct. 9.
Rookies collide -- Not since the 2008 Entry Draft last June has No. 1 pick Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and third-choice Zach Bogosian of the Atlanta Thrashers come face-to-face.
That'll change Tuesday when the currently winless Lightning (0-2-3) face the Thrashers (2-2-1) at St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. Both players are still seeking the first points of their NHL careers.
Bogosian, who has been paired on defense with veteran Mathieu Schneider, has a plus-1 rating, three hits and two takeaways while averaging 13:47 of ice time. Stamkos, who has centered the second line through the opening five games of his first season, has a minus-1 rating, nine hits and sports a 59.4 faceoff winning percentage while averaging 10:32 of ice time.
Avery's return - Left wing Sean Avery, who had 15 goals, 33 points and 154 penalty minutes in 57 regular-season games with the Rangers last season, makes his anticipated return to Madison Square Garden Monday in a Dallas Stars jersey.
This season, Avery has 2 assists and 27 penalty minutes in five games for the Stars. In eight playoff games last season, he had 4 goals and 3 assists.
Lester Patrick Awards -- Minnesota Wild founding owner Bob Naegele, Jr., Anaheim Ducks Executive Vice President and GM Brian Burke, longtime NHL defenseman Phil Housley and Hockey Hall of Fame left wing Ted Lindsay will each be honored at a luncheon in St. Paul, Minn., Wednesday as the recipients of the 2008 Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.
The Lester Patrick award was first presented to the NHL by the New York Rangers in 1966. It honors the memory of Lester Patrick, who spent 50 years in hockey as a player, coach, and general manager, and was a pioneer in the game's development.
Lindsay played 14 of his 17 NHL seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and was a key member of the Wings dynasty that captured seven consecutive regular-season titles and four Stanley Cups from 1948-49 through 1954-55.
The three other winners all share a common Minnesota bond. Naegele is a Minnetonka native who was the Wild's original owner; Burke was raised in Edina; and Housley, a native of South St. Paul, played 21 years in the NHL as defenseman. Naegele, in fact, will be honored before Thursday's Minnesota Wild-Buffalo Sabres game at Xcel Energy Center.
With Naegele as their majority owner, the Wild became one of the most successful expansion franchises in pro sports. The team has played in front of capacity crowds for every home game in franchise history, a streak that encompasses seven seasons and 319 pre-season, regular-season and playoff games.
Friendly foe -- Marian Hossa, who spent three seasons in Atlanta before being traded to Pittsburgh and then signing a one-year deal with Detroit, will welcome the Thrashers to Joe Louis Arena Friday.
Hossa scored his first goal as a Red Wing and the 300th of his career on Saturday in a 5-4 overtime decision over the New York Rangers. In five games this season, Hossa has 1 goal, 5 points and a team-high plus-4 rating while averaging just under 18 minutes of ice time.
In his first season with Atlanta in 2005-06, Hossa scored 39 goals and 92 points, surpassing his previous career high by 10 points. In 2006–07, he made franchise history as the first Thrasher to score 100 points in one season, finishing with 43 goals and 57 assists while posting a plus-18 rating.
Boyle-ing over -- For the first time in seven seasons, San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle returns to Tampa Bay on Saturday as a visitor.
Boyle, who was traded by Tampa Bay along with Brad Lukowich to the Sharks in exchange for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart and two draft picks on July 4, scored his first goal of the season with his new team 85 seconds into overtime Saturday in a 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Boyle was named the game's first star.
Star-power is something Tampa Bay could use as the club has started the season 0-2-3 under coach Barry Melrose and is currently last in the Southeast Division. The Sharks are tops in the Pacific Division with 10 points (5-1-0) and Boyle has played a big part, chipping in with a goal and five points in six games.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.