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NHL announces 2013-14 schedule

The SportsXchange

The NHL announced the 2013-14 season schedule Friday, highlighted by the Chicago Blackhawks raising their second Stanley Cup championship banner in four years, the return of outdoor games and the new conference and division alignment.

The regular season opens Oct. 1 with the Toronto Maple Leafs visiting the Montreal Canadiens. The Blackhawks will then raise their championship banner before taking on the visiting Washington Capitals.

It marks the third of a 10-year television deal between the league and NBC.

The schedule includes the return of outdoor games. Six outdoor games will be played starting with the NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1 when the Maple Leafs take on the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Other outdoor games include: Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25, 9:30 p.m. ET; New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 26, 12:30 p.m. ET; Rangers vs. New York Islanders at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. ET; Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Blackhawks at Soldier Field on March 1 at 8 p.m. ET.; and Ottawa Senators vs. Vancouver Canucks at BC Place on March 2 at 4 p.m. ET.

The New York Rangers and Boston Bruins will face off in the Bruins' traditional day-after-Thanksgiving home matinee at TD Garden on Nov. 29 at 1 p.m. ET.

The league will break from Feb. 9-25, 2014, for the Olympics as more than 120 players are expected to represent their respective countries in the men's ice hockey tournament.

A new divisional alignment takes effect starting this season that ensures that all 30 teams play in all 30 NHL arenas at least once. It includes more geographically-appropriate groupings with two eight-team divisions in the Eastern Conference and two seven-team divisions in the Western Conference.

In the Eastern Conference, the Atlantic Division includes Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto, and the Metropolitan Division includes Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington.

In the Western Conference, the Central Division includes Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg, and the Pacific Division includes Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.

Eastern Conference teams will play 30 divisional games, 24 nondivision conference games and 28 nonconference games. Western Conference teams will play 29 divisional games, 21 nondivision conference games and 32 nonconference games.

The 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs start April 16. The top three finishers in each division will qualify for the first 12 spots. The two additional playoff spots in each conference, designated as wild cards, will be awarded to the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division.

Training camp begins Sept. 11 and exhibition games start Sept. 13. The final day of the regular season is April 13.
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