NHL releases schedule: Stanley Cup Final rematch among the top games

The NHL is starting a 56-game season on Jan. 13 with five games, including the Tampa Bay Lightning raising their Stanley Cup banner in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The season is scheduled to end on May 8, with 30 of the 31 teams in action. The playoffs will begin on May 11.

To minimize travel amid the coronavirus pandemic, teams at points will play an opponent for two to three consecutive games in a city before moving on to the next opponent. Game times weren’t announced in Wednesday’s release.

Here are some of the biggest games ahead in the new season:

New York Islanders at New York Rangers, Jan. 14: Forward Alexis Lafreniere, the 2020 No. 1 overall pick, will make his NHL debut with the Rangers. He’ll face the 2019 No. 1 pick, New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes, on Jan. 19

Dallas Stars at Lightning, Jan. 17: The Lightning won an entertaining six-game Final against the Stars. Usually they would face each other two times in the following season, but this season, they’ll face each other eight times. Tampa Bay will be without leading scorer Nikita Kucherov, who will have hip surgery and miss the regular season. 

Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets, Jan. 21: This is turning into a nice rivalry. The Blue Jackets shocked the Lightning in 2019 with a first-round sweep, and Tampa Bay beat Columbus last season on the way to its Stanley Cup title. Because of realignment, they’re in the same division this year.

Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals, Jan. 30: The Capitals have won their division the past five seasons, but realignment moved in the Bruins. Boston had the top regular-season record last season, with 10 more points than the Capitals, before the season was suspended in March.

Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks, Feb. 1: Current Santa Clara County rules make it impossible for the Sharks to play now at SAP Center. The Sharks, who are holding training camp in Arizona, will open the season with an eight-game road trip.

Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks, Feb. 11: Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom, who led the Canucks’ playoff upset of the Blues, landed the biggest free agent goalie contract with a six-year, $36 million deal. Former Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby is the new Canucks goalie.

Flames at Ottawa Senators, Feb. 25: All-Star brothers Matthew (Calgary) and Brady Tkachuk (Ottawa) will face each other in four consecutive games, three in Ottawa and one in Calgary.

Golden Knights at St. Louis Blues, March 12: Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo lifted the Stanley Cup in 2019 as Blues captain. But he signed a seven-year, $61.6 million contract with the Golden Knights in the fall in the biggest signing of the offseason.

Source Article: https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nhl/2020/12/23/nhl-schedule-2020-2021-released-best-games/4031554001/