The NHL Hits the Ice!

The NHL Hits the Ice!Sorry Vancouver and Colorado fans – you'll be the only ones forced to watch baseball or college football on Saturday. All 28 other National Hockey League teams will be taking to the ice on the league's first Saturday slate of the season. And with so many games on tap, there's a good mix of historic rivalries, big-market clashes, divisional contests, and grudge matches on the night's schedule. 

Fans up north will be most interested in the Montreal Canadiens/Toronto Maple Leafs matchup that starts at 7:00pm ET at the Air Canada Centre. This will be Montreal's second straight road game to start the year, while Toronto began the 2006/07 season with a home-and-home series against the rival Ottawa Senators. 

South of the border, though, two of the top matchups are the New York Rangers at Philadelphia and New Jersey at Dallas. The Devils in particular will be a team to watch in the early going. Only some fancy maneuvering by GM Lou Lamoriello at the last minute allowed New Jersey to get all their players under contract and under the cap; a lack of cohesiveness might be on display in the first few weeks. 

Out on the west coast, the two Los Angeles-area teams are both hoping that new additions can get them off to strong starts this season. For the Ducks, that big addition was defenseman Chris Pronger, who forced a trade out of Edmonton and ended up in Orange County. For the Kings, it's new head coach Marc Crawford, who was fired by the Canucks at the end of last season after missing the playoffs. The Ducks play in Phoenix Saturday, while the Kings host St. Louis. 

Los Angeles also has a couple of subtractions of note – and that would be forward Eric Belanger and defenseman Tim Gleason. Both were shipped to Carolina last week in exchange mostly for top prospect Jack Johnson, and both will be in the lineup for the defending champions when they play a road game against Washington on Saturday. In a second all-Southeast matchup that night, Todd Bertuzzi and the Florida Panthers travel to Atlanta to battle the Thrashers. 

The most intense game on the slate, though, should take place in Calgary, where the Flames will be playing yet another game against the hated, provincial-rival Oilers; the two also clashed on Thursday night. Filling out this Saturday's NHL schedule are Buffalo at Ottawa, Detroit at Pittsburgh, Boston at Tampa Bay, Nashville at Minnesota, Columbus at Chicago, and the Islanders at the Sharks.

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