The regular season will finally get underway today. There have been interesting training camp stories to be sure, including some fairly significant surprises, but it will be good to start watching games that count.
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The opening lineup of games is excellent too. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets will begin the season at 7:00 p.m. ET in a match that features the top two players in last year’s Calder Trophy voting in Toronto’s Auston Matthews and Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine. The Maple Leafs have a young core that provided the city with a lot of hope last season, but it remains to be seen if the sophomores on the team will experience some growing pains this season. Meanwhile, Winnipeg will be hoping that Steve Mason, who was signed over the summer, can be a solid starter for them after the Jets allowed the fourth most goals in 2016-17.
Starting at 8:00 p.m. ET the Pittsburgh Penguins will host the St. Louis Blues in a contest that will be available on NBCSN. The Penguins are of course the first team to win back-to-back championships since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings and while Pittsburgh did lose some players over the summer (most notably Matt Cullen, Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, and Marc-Andre Fleury), the core that led them to those championships is still intact. Their first test, the Blues, is entering the season with a slew of injuries that will make the early going particularly challenging for them.
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As far as the late games go, those will be kicked off with the Edmonton Oilers hosting the Calgary Flames at 10:00 p.m. ET. Unfortunately immigration issues will presumably keep Jaromir Jagr out of that game on the Calgary Flames’ side, but there’s no shortage of star power between these two teams. Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan both left something to be desired in 2016-17 when their campaigns were taken as a whole, but they could be in for big years. Meanwhile, the pressure will be on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to live up to their outstanding potential after signing massive contracts with Edmonton.
The last game of the night will be the Philadelphia Flyers in San Jose starting at 10:30 p.m. ET and this contest will also be on NBCSN. The Sharks will be moving forward without Patrick Marleau as the 38-year-old forward who played in 1,493 games with San Jose opted to sign with Toronto over the summer. Nevertheless the Sharks have a superb team that should be a playoff contender this season. Of course the player to watch isn’t with the Sharks, but rather it’s Philadelphia’s Nolan Patrick. The second overall pick earned a spot with the Flyers and is projected to center the second line of Wayne Simmonds and Jordan Weal.
While you’re waiting for the games to start, you could check out our Rotoworld Predictions or our team-by-team podcast previews. Also I’m going to be holding a fantasy hockey chat at 7:00 p.m. ET tonight, so feel free to stop in and ask some questions.