2020-21 NHL schedule features Cup champion Lightning on opening night

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The Tampa Bay Lightning will raise their second Stanley Cup championship banner before playing the Chicago Blackhawks at Amalie Arena on Jan. 13, one of five games on opening night of the 2020-21 NHL season.

In the other games that day, the Pittsburgh Penguins will play at the Philadelphia Flyers; the Montreal Canadiens at the Toronto Maple Leafs; the Vancouver Canucks at the Edmonton Oilers; and the St. Louis Blues at the Colorado Avalanche.

They are the first five of an 868-game regular season featuring 56 games per team that concludes May 8, when 30 of the NHL’s 31 teams will be in action.

The NHL announced Sunday it reached an agreement with the NHL Players’ Association on the format for the season, including four realigned divisions and all intradivisional play.

Formal training camps will begin Jan. 3. There will be no preseason games. The seven teams that did not participate in the 2019-20 Return to Play will be permitted to open their camps as early as Dec. 31.

 

[RELATED: 2020-21 NHL schedule announced | Regular-season schedule has intriguing matchups]

 

Each team in the East, Central and West divisions will play every other team in its division eight times, and each team in the North Division, comprised of the seven teams based in Canada, will play every other team in its division nine or 10 times.

The top four teams in each division will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

The first two rounds will be intradivisional, with the first-place team playing the fourth-place team and the second-place team facing the third-place team in the first round. The four teams that advance from the second round to the Semifinal Round will be seeded by their points total in the regular season (No. 1 vs. No. 4; No. 2 vs. No. 3).

The League is planning to have all games be played in home arenas but is prepared to play games in one or more neutral venues per division should it become necessary.

The Lightning and Dallas Stars, who played in the Stanley Cup Final last season, will play the first of eight games against each other on Jan. 17 at Amalie Arena. They will also play Jan. 19 at Amalie Arena.

The Lightning also won the Stanley Cup in 2004.

Tampa Bay and Dallas are the first teams to compete in the same division after meeting in the Stanley Cup Final since the Flyers and New York Islanders played in the Patrick Division in 1980-81.

The first of nine games featuring Connor McDavid and the Oilers against Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs will be in Toronto on Jan. 20. They’ll also play in Edmonton on Jan. 28 and Jan. 30, and another three times in Edmonton from Feb. 27-March 3.

The Tkachuk brothers, Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk and Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk, will play against each other nine times, including five times from Feb. 25-March 7.

This season will be the first since 1923-24 when all of the teams based in Canada will play only each other. The NHL included only teams in Canadian markets from 1917-24. The Boston Bruins came into the NHL in 1924-25, becoming the first team based in the United States.

The first of eight games between East Division rivals the New York Rangers and Bruins will be in New York on Feb. 10. The Rangers and Bruins are in the same division for the first time since they were in the original East Division from 1967-74.

It’s also the first time since 1973-74 that all three teams based in New York state (Islanders, Rangers, Buffalo Sabres) are in the same division.

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo will face his former team, the Blues, eight times, starting with consecutive home games Jan. 26 and 28. Pietrangelo signed a seven-year, $61.6 million contract with the Golden Knights on Oct. 13.

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