The NHL's 2011 schedule will be released on Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET, and as we wait for the official announcement from the league on that schedule, there are already a few highlights that we're already aware of.
The 2010-11 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins will begin their title defense against the hated Philadelphia Flyers, at home inside TD Garden on October 6. Of course, they will also raise their Stanley Cup banner that night, which will rise right to the rafters next to their most recent Cup banner, dating back to 1972.\
We know almost certainly that the Flyers will host the New York Rangers in the Winter Classic at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, the home of baseball's Phillies, on Monday, January 2, 2012. There are reports that the game will be played at night, as apparently the NHL enjoyed the effect the evening game (albeit unplanned) had on television in Pittsburgh last season.
There will be no Heritage Classic game this year.
The still-unnamed Winnipeg franchise will host their home opener against a little team called the Montreal Canadiens at MTS Centre on Sunday, October 9 at 4 p.m. No word just yet on if that will be their first game, or whether they'll be starting their new life as the Winnipeg Whatevers on the road.
Madison Square Garden is undergoing renovations, and as a result, the Rangers are going to have a lengthy trip ahead of them to start the regular season. They are one of four teams heading to Europe to kick off the season, and they'll play the Los Angeles Kings to start their season on October 7 at Stockholm's Globe Arena.
After a second game in Stockholm against the Anaheim Ducks on the 8th, the Rangers return to North America for a series of games in Western Canada. Talk about travel. Their first game back at MSG? October 27 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yikes.
Also in Europe on the 7th, the Ducks and Buffalo Sabres will face off in Helsinki, and the Sabres will take on the Kings in Berlin on the 8th. The full schedule will be released by the NHL at 2 p.m., and you can get up to speed with it right here once it's announced.