Top 14 games on the NHL schedule in 2013-14

Cory Schneider's reunion with Roberto Luongo against his old Canucks in Vancouver, a renewal of the Senators-Habs rivalry that got heated in the playoffs and Daniel Alfredsson's likely hostile return to Ottawa highlight three games to watch next season. (CP)

The NHL released the schedule for the 2013-14 season Friday afternoon.

It is the first year where the league’s new realignment plan will kick in so there will be four new divisions (Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific) this year.

To remind you, the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets switched to the Eastern Conference while the Winnipeg Jets take off to the West (where they belonged to begin with).

With the new schedule set in stone, here are the 14 must-see games to circle on your calendars this season.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens (Oct. 1)
NHL season opener: This happens to be the first game of the newly-christened Atlantic Division (Yes, Montreal and Toronto are in the “Atlantic” Division.) As always, the Leafs and Habs serve for a great rivalry game that will get the season started on the right note.

New Jersey Devils vs. Vancouver Canucks (Oct. 8)

Cory Schneider’s return: It will be fun to see Schneider go up against Roberto Luongo at Rogers Arena. Canucks GM Mike Gillis will quickly see firsthand if he kept the right goalie after controversially trading his other netminder at the draft.

Edmonton Oilers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Oct. 12)

Dallas Eakins vs. Randy Carlyle: Many around Toronto thought the Leafs should’ve promoted Eakins instead of bringing in Carlyle when Ron Wilson was fired. Now, the former Marlies bench boss will visit his old organization for the first time as the new head coach in Edmonton.

Dallas Stars vs. Boston Bruins (Nov. 5)

Tyler Seguin vs. Boston: Seguin’s long-awaited return to Boston after the mega off-season trade. The Boston party scene will be happy this time.

Ottawa Senators vs. Montreal Canadiens (Nov. 7)

Rivalry renewed: In the first round last season, the Habs and Senators had the testiest first round series. The two sides will battle for the first time since that insult- and fight-filled series that really got heated when Eric Gryba sent Lars Eller out on a stretcher. Should be a wild one.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins (Nov. 9)

Leafs revisit TD Garden: The Leafs may have trouble sleeping before they return to the site of their third-period epic three-goal meltdown from Game 7. As Joffrey Lupul said, that loss will haunt him forever.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (Nov. 27)

Vinnie’s back: The longtime Lightning captain will make his return to Tampa Bay for the first time as a member of the Flyers. The Lightning surprised many when they pulled the plug and used a compliance buyout on Lecavalier.

Vancouver Canucks vs. NY Rangers (Nov. 30)

Torts vs. Vigneault: The New York media (especially Brooksie) should be excited to see their good buddy John Tortorella. Torts will be back at Madison Square Garden with the Canucks, who will be facing their former coach Alain Vigneault – who happened to get Torts’ old job.

Detroit Red Wings vs. Ottawa Senators (Dec. 1)

Alfie’s return to Ottawa: This one doesn’t need much of an intro, does it? Daniel Alfredsson stunned the Senators and the rest of the NHL when he bolted to the Detroit Red Wings on the first day of free agency. Will Ottawa fans boo their longtime captain, who now plays for a division rival?

Boston Bruins vs. Calgary Flames (Dec. 10)

Calgary welcomes Iginla: Unlike Alfredsson, we don’t expect much hostility when Jarome Iginla returns to the Saddledome. The longtime Flames captain never returned last season after the mid-season trade to Pittsburgh and he should see a great response when he takes on his former team for the first time.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings (Jan. 1)

Winter Classic: Detroit and Toronto battle at the Big House on New Year’s Day. With the Leafs and Red Wings back in the same division (cue highlights of Borshevsky goal), this should be a fascinating game to watch. Especially now that the longtime Leafs’ rival, Daniel Alfredsson,is back in the equation.

Phoenix Coyotes vs. Winnipeg Jets (Jan. 13)

Old Jets vs. New Jets: This should be an emotional one when the former Jets come back to Winnipeg for the first time as conference rivals. With the new Jets moving to the Western Conference, this will be one for all (new and old) Jets fans to closely follow.

Boston Bruins vs. Chicago Blackhawks (Jan. 19)

Stanley Cup rematch: The Bruins are in Chicago for the first time since their wild Stanley Cup loss from last season. The 2013 final was one of the best in recent memory so this matchup should draw serious attention across the hockey world.

Ottawa Senators vs. Vancouver Canucks (March 2)

Heritage Classic: In one of the six (that’s right, six) outdoor games this season, this battle between two Canadian clubs will certainly be worth watching. Both teams are searching for a new identity after Alfredsson left town and Schneider and Vigneault were sent packing in the off-season.

Note: Here are the four other outdoor games in the 2013-14 season:

Jan. 25 – Anaheim vs. Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium, L.A.

Jan. 26 – New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils – Yankee Stadium, N.Y.

Jan. 29 – New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders – Yankee Stadum, N.Y.

March 1 – Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Chicago Blackhawks – Solider Field, Chicago

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