Eastern contenders, Canadiens vs. Leafs will be must-watch hockey. [Claus Andersen/Getty Images].
By Allan Muir
The best hockey games are rarely the ones we anticipate, but this year's schedule, released today by the NHL, offers a baker's dozen that are worth circling on your calendar right off the hop.
Here are the games we're already making plans to watch:
Oct. 1: Washington at Chicago
The newly minted champions open the season with a banner-raising ceremony and a visit from the league's MVP, Alex Ovechkin.
Oct. 1: Toronto at Montreal
Season opener ... the Forever Rivals ... Don Cherry is back!
Oct. 6: Vancouver at Calgary
This will be the first regular-season chance to see what's become of the Saddledome. Here's hoping they're able to pull off a miracle and have it ready in time for the home opener.
Nov. 5: Dallas at Boston
And after that game, Tyler Seguin finally gets to show his new teammates all the coolest places to hang out in Boston.
Nov. 30: Vancouver at Rangers
John Tortorella returns to Madison Square Garden. Go for the game, stay for the press conference!
Dec. 1: Detroit at Ottawa
This will be the first of two chances for Senators fans to shower their former captain with affection, or treat him like he's no better than Phil Kessel.
Dec. 10: Boston at Calgary
Unlike Alfredsson, it's a good bet Jarome Iginla's return home will be a love-in with Calgary's fans. Should be a fun night.
Dec. 19: Columbus at Philadelphia
Maybe Sergei Bobrovsky will bring along the Vezina for his first trip back to Philly. Kinda like showing up where your old girlfriend works with your new, hotter girlfriend.
Jan. 1: Toronto at Detroit
When it was originally scheduled for last year, the Winter Classic set up as a battle between Original Six rivals. Now, the ante's been upped, as the Leafs and Wings are now divisional foes. And the game's back on New Year's Day, where it belongs.
Jan. 19: Boston at Chicago
The last two Stanley Cup runners-up exacted a smidge of revenge the next time they met their tormentors. Will the B's make it three in a row?
Jan. 25: Anaheim at Los Angeles
Forget those games in the fake Yankee Stadium. This is a real classic yard, and that makes this game at Chavez Ravine the marquee event in the Stadium Series. Hockey and palm trees. Tell me you won't be watching.
March 1: Pittsburgh at Chicago
This will be the NHL's big post-Olympic party at historic Soldier Field, a chance to show off what they hope will be the stars of the Sochi Games in the sweaters they wear when they're not defending the honor of their countries.
March 2: Ottawa at Vancouver
Yep, another outdoor game ... sort of. The Heritage Classic returns to the schedule at BC Place, where a retractable roof and the chance of inclement weather could turn this into history's largest indoor game instead.