Oct. 8: Opening Night: The Maple Leafs usher in the new NHL season by hosting the Canadiens. But the highlight of the night will be watching the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings raise their second championship banner in three years before taking on the Sharks, the team that L.A. embarrassed in the first round of the playoffs last spring.
Oct. 11: Love hockey? Well, all 30 teams will be in action on this night. And the highlight of the evening is a meeting will be between the Wild and the Avalanche, a rematch of one of last spring’s most hotly contested first-round series. With a few new faces on both sides (Thomas Vanek for Minnesota, Jarome Iginla for Colorado), this game may provide an early indication of how much each team has improved up front.
Oct. 16: The Bruins take on Montreal for the first time since they dropped a seven-game second-round series to their hated rivals last spring. There’s rarely a dull contest between these two teams, and with an emotional series so fresh in their memories, expect some fireworks in what will be the home opener for the Canadiens.
Nov. 20: Ducks center Ryan Kesler made it known that he wanted out of Vancouver, so the Canucks shipped him to Anaheim in June. But how will the fans react when the rugged center returns to Vancouver for the first time? It may depend on how well their team is playing, but don’t expect any standing ovations for the 30-year-old Kesler.
Nov. 29: The Blackhawks and the Kings played one of the most epic postseason series in recent memory last spring, and let’s face it, that Western Conference finals was the de facto Cup finals. With both teams retaining most of their players from a year ago, this promises to be a clinic of top-notch skill, as well as entertaining hockey.
Dec. 1: The Lightning and the Rangers pulled off a memorable deadline trade last spring, when New York acquired disgruntled winger Martin St. Louis in exchange for captain Ryan Callahan. In their third and final meeting of the 2014–15 season, this game will be the last chance for either forward to stick it to their former team.
Jan. 1: The seventh annual (when there isn’t a lockout) Winter Classic travels south of the Mason-Dixon line to Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The Capitals will host Chicago in this afternoon game, the culmination of the new EPIX-produced reality show that will look behind the scenes as both teams prep for the outdoor game. The Blackhawks haven’t ever gotten the all-access treatment, and, well, with characters like Patrick Kane in the mix, it could be fun viewing.
Gallery: The NHL Outdoors
Jan. 8: Embattled goalie Roberto Luongo—once the bane, then the Twitter crush of Canucks fans—returns to Vancouver for the first time with his new team, the Panthers. And he’ll likely be facing off against 2010 Olympics foe, and new Canucks goalie, Ryan Miller. That storyline won’t be overplayed to death at all by the Vancouver media, we’re sure.
Jan. 16: Few people know the Predators better than their longtime coach, Barry Trotz, who returns to Nashville for the first time as Washington's bench boss. But the Predators, with a rebooted system focused on boosting offense under new coach Peter Laviolette, will surely look different than the team that Trotz oversaw for 15 years.
Jan. 25: The Blue Jackets were supposed to host the 2013 All-Star Game, but the lockout pushed Columbus's midseason classic, in all its shinny glory, to 2015. (There was no All-Star Game in 2014 because of the Sochi Olympics.)
Feb. 21: After the glut of outdoor games last season, the NHL opted to go with just one Stadium Series match for 2014–15: another California showdown between L.A. and San Jose at the home of the San Francisco 49ers, the brand new Levi’s Stadium, in Santa Clara, Calif. Like the Winter Classic, the game will be preceded by a reality series on EPIX.
March 3: The NHL trade deadline is March 2. So tune in to the 10 games slated for the day after. New faces and playoff races will begin to emerge as the season enters the home stretch.
March 24: Broadway Blueshirts fans get their first crack at the team that thwarted the Rangers in the Cup finals last spring. New York’s raucous home crowd will surely create an unwelcome atmosphere for this late-season showdown against the Kings. If the Rangers are fighting for playoff position, expect the building to have a postseason atmosphere.
April 1: There is rarely a civil meeting between the cross-state rival Penguins and Flyers. But a meeting this late in the season, with playoff implications likely to be on the line, could be a watershed game in the Metropolitan Division.
April 11: The season doesn’t always end with a “win and in” situation, but with all 30 teams playing in the season finale, there is certainly a chance that there will be a do-or-die scenario for someone. Our bet right now? The Rangers visiting the Capitals, or the Wild at the Blues.