Mark your calendars: Seven NHL games to watch next season

Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Michael Bunting (58) and Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher (11) battle along the boards during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, April 9, 2022. (Frank Gunn/CP)

The release of the 2022-2023 schedule usually signals a moment where hockey fans break out the pen and calendar to mark the games worthy of clearing the schedule.

In an attempt to ease that process, Sportsnet has gone ahead and flagged some must-watch games for the campaign.

From Stanley Cup Final rematches to the Battle of Alberta, brother against brother to All-Star clashes, here are seven games you won’t want to miss:

Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens

Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT, Sportsnet

It seems fitting that two Original Six teams play their regular-season opener against each other. 

Despite Montreal’s less-than-stellar record last season, the rivalry between the Leafs and the Habs — spanning over a century — will not soon be squashed. In 16 post-season meetings, Montreal has emerged victorious in nine, including the come-from-behind series in 2021 that saw the Habs upset the Leafs in seven games. 

Over a year later, both teams are still hungry to beat each other. The Leafs want payback. The Habs want to prove their record against Toronto stands up — and could have the No. 1 overall pick from this year’s Draft making his NHL debut. All of that adds up to must-watch hockey.

Calgary Flames at Edmonton Oilers

Saturday, Oct. 15 at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT, Hockey Night in Canada

Does the Battle of Alberta ever disappoint? 

It certainly didn’t in last season’s playoffs, where the second-round series started with the historic 9-6 victory for the Flames and ended with the Oilers winning four straight to punch their ticket to the Western Conference Final.

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were next-to-unstoppable against Calgary’s defence, putting up a historic performance that saw Draisaitl tally 17 points in five games and McDavid with 16, including the overtime winner to send the Oilers to round three. 

With no love lost between Matthew Tkachuk and the Flames and Connor McDavid and the Oilers, the Flames will undoubtably be looking for revenge in the first match-up of this (often testy) rivalry. 

New Jersey Devils at Vancouver Canucks

Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT

It’s a match-up the Hughes family likely takes note of every year. 

Devils and Canucks fans alike can get excited to see their respective Hughes brother take the ice in opposition — Vancouver defenceman Quinn and New Jersey centre Jack.

“I think I’m 0-3 against him and 0-2 against him in the NHL,” older brother Quinn said ahead of their February 2022 game. “So that’s kind of a problem.”

The Canucks fell 7-2 in that game. In fact, before their 6-3 victory at home in March, the Canucks hadn’t won a game against the Devils since 2014.

Adding more to the mix, youngest brother Luke was drafted fourth overall by the Devils in the 2021 draft. While it’s not known if Luke will join the Devils this upcoming season, the prospect of a complete battle of the Hughes brothers will entertain both fanbases for years to come.

Vegas Golden Knights at Buffalo Sabres

Thursday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT

Until his trade to the Golden Knights on Nov. 4, 2021, the Jack Eichel sweepstakes dominated the hockey news cycle for months.

Eichel confirmed that he had requested a trade from Buffalo following the COVID-shortened 2019-2020 season. Relations seemed to sour between both parties throughout the long and arduous process, including amongst some Sabres fans.

When he made his long-awaited return to Buffalo as a member of the Golden Knights last March, attendance at KeyBank Arena was higher than it had been in years.

The game saw the Golden Knights fall to the Sabres thanks to goals from key trade pieces Alex Tuch, who grew up not far from Buffalo, and Peyton Krebs.

Colorado Avalanche at Tampa Bay Lightning

Thursday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT

Perhaps no game is more exciting than the first rematch of the Stanley Cup Final.

The last time the Avalanche were at Amalie Arena, they were hoisting the Cup after defeating the two-time defending champion Lightning in six games.

Tensions rose to a peak in Game 4, when Nazem Kadri scored a controversial overtime winner to put the Avalanche up 3-1 in the series. Coach Jon Cooper questioned in his post-game interview if the goal should have counted at all because of a possible too-many-men-on-the-ice issue.

The typically dominant Lightning struggled to generate offence against the Avalanche. It was a series in which many were questioning how the Lightning would fare against an offensively gifted team like the Avalanche.

With the winning culture that exists within the Lightning, it’s a safe bet to assume they’re going to come out swinging in their first game against the Avalanche.

Calgary Flames at Ottawa Senators

Monday, February 13 at 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT, Sportsnet

In yet another family affair, Senators captain Brady Tkachuk will square off against his brother Matthew of the Flames on home-ice.

The brothers made headlines during the Flames’ playoff run in 2022, where Brady was seen supporting his brother throughout the first two rounds in a red “Matthew Tkachuk Friendship Tour” shirt.

While many have already commented on the bizarre reality of the captain of one NHL team openly supporting another, Brady made it clear that he would not be sporting any Flames attire in his quest to cheer on his brother. 

But the playoffs are over, and the two sons of Keith Tkachuk will shove aside brotherly love and replace it with fierce competition, as they have done in each of their meetings in the NHL. 

Toronto Maple Leafs at Edmonton Oilers

Wednesday, March 1 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT, Sportsnet

With two Hart Trophy winners going head-to-head, expect plenty of entertainment

Hockey fans around Canada have the privilege of watching two generational talents in Auston Matthews and McDavid.

While Edmonton enjoyed a deeper playoff run than the Leafs, Toronto came out victorious in both meetings between the two teams last season. The Oilers are likely not satisfied and will be hungry for the chance to beat the Leafs for the first time since March of 2021. 

With Matthews fresh off his Hart Trophy victory and McDavid putting on a playoff performance of the ages, Oilers, Leafs and hockey fans alike should mark this game on the calendar.

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