August is usually the quietest of months in the National Hockey League, with most of the off-season business taken care of and a new season still off in the distance; but that doesn't mean we can't look ahead and start marking our calendars for important upcoming dates as they pertain to the New York Rangers.
So before heading out on vacation, here are some of the dates circled on Jim's 2015 calendar (I haven't quite flipped the calendar to 2016 just yet).
September 11: At 3:30 that afternoon Rangers prospects will face off with prospects from the Minnesota Wild in the annual eight-team Traverse City Tournament in Michigan. To me this is the unofficial end to the off-season and the start to a new year. I am looking forward to watching Brady Skjei, Adam Tambellini, Brandon Halverson, Ryan Gropp, and others in their next steps to one day wearing the Blueshirt.
September 17: Players report to training camp. Even though most, if not all, the players who will be Rangers this season will have been in New York working out together in the days and weeks leading up to the 17th, there is still something real exciting about the official start of camp.
September 21: The Rangers host the Devils at The Garden in the pre-season opener. It doesn't count in the standings, but hey it's real live hockey! Plus I always find it fun and interesting to watch players battling for roster spots, as well as some of the team's younger prospects, in game action.
October 7: Opening Night in Chicago where the Rangers will have to watch the Blackhawks raise their 2014-15 Stanley Cup banner to the rafters at the United Center before playing the first of the 82 games that count in the standings.
October 9 and 10: The Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets are an emerging rivalry, and you just get a feeling that the intensity is going to be quite high when these two clubs face each other throughout this season. Playing on back-to-back nights will only ratchet up the intensity, especially with the October 10 game in this home-and-home set slated to be the Rangers Home Opener at MSG.
November 3: Not your ordinary Tuesday night in early November, because the Washington Capitals enter The Garden for the first time since the Rangers eliminated the Caps in dramatic Game Seven fashion last spring in this very same building.
November 19: The Rangers' first meeting with the Lightning since Tampa Bay edged the Blueshirts in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final in May. This one will be played in Tampa, site of New York's stirring Game Six win which forced the seventh and decisive game in that very same conference Final.
December 2: Not only the Rangers and Islanders first get together of the 2015-16 campaign, but the first ever between these New York rivals to be played at the Isles new home, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
December 11: The Rangers skate against the Oilers in Edmonton. Presumably Henrik Lundqvist vs. Cam Talbot in goal. Plus the Oilers honor Glen Sather in a pre-game ceremony. Should be quite the memorable evening.
December 22: Emerson Etem skates against the Anaheim Ducks for the first time since they traded him to New York during June's draft. The Ducks were his hometown team that made him a first-round draft pick. Etem will likely downplay the importance of this game; but you can bet he'll be charged up to show the Ducks they made a mistake when these teams clash at MSG in the final game before Christmas.
When I do flip the calendar to 2016 I'll let you know which dates I have circled. For now, use the comments section below to share which dates are the ones you are most looking forward to before the New Year arrives!