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NHL schedules full slate of games for opening night

7/27/2005 - NHL

NEW YORK -- The NHL will return to the ice with the busiest
night in the league's 88-year history.

Not wanting fans to have to wait one extra day to see their
teams, the NHL has scheduled 15 games -- including all 30 clubs -- on
opening night Oct. 5. Before the lockout that wiped out all of last
season, the record for games in a day was 14, done nine times but
not since 2003.

The schedule, released Wednesday, features more divisional games
as teams will play their biggest rivals eight times instead of six.

There are 10 such matchups on opening night alone, including
Pittsburgh at New Jersey. That should mark the NHL debut of teenage
forward Sidney Crosby, expected to be drafted first overall
Saturday by Pittsburgh.

Other games on the league's first night include: Montreal at
Boston in an "Original Six" matchup, Ottawa at Toronto, the New
York Rangers at Philadelphia, and Carolina at Tampa Bay in which
the Stanley Cup champion Lightning will raise a banner to the
rafters.

Florida will host Atlanta, St. Louis will be at Detroit,
Edmonton welcomes Colorado, Calgary will travel to Minnesota, and
Los Angeles visits Dallas.

The NHL will take a hiatus from Feb. 13-27 so players can
represent their countries at the Olympics in Turin, Italy. There
will not be an All-Star weekend in years that include an Olympic
break.

The regular season will conclude on April 18 and the Stanley Cup
playoffs will begin three nights later. The last possible date for
Game 7 of the finals is June 19.

Clubs will play 32 of their 82 games within the division. Teams
will have four games against each of the other 10 conference foes
plus 10 interconference games -- five at home against one division
and five on the road against another division.

Northeast Division teams will host the Pacific Division and
visit the Northwest; Atlantic Division clubs will host the
Northwest and go to the Central, and Southeast Division teams will
host the Central and travel to the Pacific.

Divisional assignments will rotate annually.

Other schedule highlights include, Toronto at Tampa Bay, in the
Nov. 5 Hall of Fame game, and a Canadian tripleheader on Jan. 7
when Ottawa visits Montreal, Toronto is at Edmonton and Calgary
travels to Vancouver.