NHL 2020-21 regular-season schedule has intriguing matchups

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There are eight teams in the East, Central and West divisions. Each will play the other seven teams eight times.

The North Division is comprised of the seven teams based in Canada. Each will play nine or 10 games against the other six.

Here’s a look at some of the best matchups, focusing on new or renewed rivalries for this season:

 

[RELATED: 2020-21 NHL schedule announced]

 

NORTH DIVISION

(Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets)

Flames vs. Senators (first game, Feb. 25)

Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk and Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk will go head-to-head nine times this season instead of the usual two. The brothers have faced off four times in the regular season since Brady entered the NHL in 2018-19, with Matthew and the Flames winning three of the games. Each forward has scored three points in the four games (Brady: two goals, one assist; Matthew: one goal, two assists).

Oilers vs. Maple Leafs (first game, Jan. 20)

Connor McDavid, the No. 1 pick of the 2015 NHL Draft, and Auston Matthews, the No. 1 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, are two of the most dynamic players in the League. McDavid, the Edmonton center, leads the NHL with 469 points (162 goals, 307 assists) in 351 games since 2015-16. Matthews, the Toronto center, ranks second in goals with 158 in 282 games since entering the NHL in 2016-17 (Alex Ovechkin, 181).

Canucks vs. Flames (first game, Jan. 16)

The intensity between these two teams should increase a few notches this season. Vancouver was one win from advancing to the Western Conference Final last season, but goalie Jacob Markstrom and defenseman Christopher Tanev signed with Calgary in free agency. The Canucks responded by signing goalie Braden Holtby and trading for defenseman Nate Schmidt.

Jets vs. Canadiens (first game, March 4)

This matchup features two of the best goalies in the NHL. Connor Hellebuyck won the Vezina Trophy voted as the top goalie in the NHL last season after he went 31-21-5 with a 2.57 goals-against average, a .922 save percentage and six shutouts for Winnipeg. Price, who was voted winner of the Vezina and the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in 2014-15, has won at least 34 games five times. He is Montreal’s all-time wins leader (348) and ranks fourth among active NHL goalies in victories.

 

EAST DIVISION

(Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals)

Penguins vs. Sabres (first game, March 11)

Pittsburgh made significant changes this offseason, including trading goalie Matt Murray and forward Patric Hornqvist, but Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang remain. Buffalo, which will try to end a nine-season Stanley Cup Playoff drought, the longest in the NHL, added forward Taylor Hall in free agency to complement center Jack Eichel, who has scored 337 points (137 goals, 200 assists) in 354 NHL games.

Islanders vs. Capitals (first game, Jan. 26)  

New York defeated Washington in five games in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round last season, with coach Barry Trotz getting the best of the team he guided to the Stanley Cup in 2018. The Islanders, who got within two wins of advancing to the Cup Final, proved they can contend. Ovechkin and the Capitals are hoping for a better result after being eliminated in the first round each of the past two seasons.

Devils vs. Flyers (first game, Jan. 26)

New Jersey and Philadelphia are no strangers to one another, and it should be exciting to watch their young goalies battle this season. In two seasons with the Flyers, Carter Hart is 40-26-4 with a 2.59 GAA and .915 save percentage, and the 22-year-old helped them finish as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season. Mackenzie Blackwood led NHL rookies in wins last season, when the 24-year-old was 22-14-8 with a 2.77 GAA and .915 save percentage for the Devils.

Bruins vs. Rangers (first game, Feb. 10)

The two Original Six teams are back in the same division for the first time since 1973-74. Boston, which defeated New York in the Stanley Cup Final in 1929 and 1972, won the Presidents’ Trophy last season and was one victory from winning the Cup in 2019. The Rangers are looking to make a statement after adding center Alexis Lafreniere, the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, to an offense that already included Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin.

 

CENTRAL DIVISION

(Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning)

Red Wings vs. Blackhawks (first game, Feb. 15)

The two Original Six teams were in the same division from 1981-2013 (Norris, 1981-1993; Central, 1993-2013) before Detroit moved to the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference. In those 31 seasons, the teams combined for 23 division titles and won the Stanley Cup six times. Although each team is in rebuilding mode, there’s plenty of talent to make it a matchup worth watching.

Lightning vs. Stars (first game, Jan. 17)

Tampa Bay defeated Dallas in six games in the Stanley Cup Final last season. The Stars will seek a small measure of revenge for that loss when they face off against Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy voted as playoff MVP, and forwards Nikita Kucherov (34 points; seven goals, 27 assists) and Brayden Point (33 points; 14 goals, 19 assists), who were Nos. 1 and 2 in NHL postseason scoring.

Blue Jackets vs. Predators (first game, Jan. 14)

When Columbus entered the NHL for the 2000-01 season, it joined the Central Division, which Nashville had been in since its first NHL season in 1998-99. The two remained division rivals for 12 seasons until the Blue Jackets moved to the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference prior to the 2013-14 season. The Predators have qualified for the playoffs each of the past six seasons, and the Blue Jackets each of the past four.

Hurricanes vs. Panthers (first game, Jan. 21 )

The future looks bright for Carolina and Florida, with each team having made the Stanley Cup Qualifiers last season. High-scoring forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau drive the offense for the Panthers, who have two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky. The Hurricanes, who advanced to the Eastern Conference Final in 2018, are led by forwards Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov.

 

WEST DIVISION

(Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks, Vegas Golden Knights)

Avalanche vs. Coyotes (first game, Feb. 9)

Colorado is a Stanley Cup favorite, and Arizona is a team on the rise after making the playoffs last season for the first time since 2012. The Avalanche defeated the Coyotes in five games in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round, outscoring them 22-8. Forwards Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller hope to be a much tougher matchup this season when they play Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon and the rest of the Avalanche.

Blues vs. Golden Knights (first game, Jan. 26)

St. Louis has never lost in regulation to Vegas in the regular season, going 5-0-4 since the Golden Knights entered the NHL for the 2017-18 season, but the rivalry will be more intense this season. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who was Blues captain when they won the Cup for the first time in their history in 2019, signed a seven-year contract with the Golden Knights on Oct. 12.

Ducks vs. Kings (first game, Feb. 3)

Anaheim and Los Angeles each is looking to rebound after neither made the Qualifiers last season. The Kings selected center Quinton Byfield with the No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft, and the Ducks chose defenseman Jamie Drysdale at No. 6. Each should be involved in this heated Southern California rivalry for years to come.

Wild vs. Sharks (first game, Feb. 22)

Goalie Devan Dubnyk and forward Ryan Donato will see a lot of their former team this season. Each was acquired by San Jose from Minnesota on Oct. 5 in separate trades and will have no problem gearing up for these games. Dubnyk, who won at least 31 games five straight seasons from 2014-19, ranks second in Wild history with 177 wins (Nicklas Backstrom, 194). Donato scored an NHL career-high 14 goals for Minnesota last season.

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