Game Day Preview: NHL season open for business

leafscanadiens-167679876

It’s time to strap in for another NHL season – 82 games worth! The next time we’ll be without NHL hockey is Dec. 24.

As part of the new Post-to-Post format, each day we’ll look ahead to the games of the day. So here…we…go…

Toronto at Montreal
Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland. What better way to kick of an NHL season than with a good old-fashioned Maple Leafs-Canadiens showdown.

Can Carey Price, once considered a lock as Team Canada’s No. 1 goalie, get back to that level? The Canadiens sure need him to. (Autoplay video) Montreal Gazette

Phil Kessel is a very rich man after agreeing to an eight-year, $64 million extension. Now the pressure’s on to live up to it. Sportsnet

This day in history: Toronto trades goalie Lorne Chabot to Montreal in exchange for George Hainsworth – 1933.

Player To Watch: This will be Daniel Briere’s first regular season game for the Canadiens since being acquired by the team as a free agent. The Gatineau, Que., native managed only 16 points in 34 games last season, but the roof will be blown off the Bell Centre when he’s announced for the first time.

Over/under 5.5 goals: I’ve got the over.

Washington at Chicago
The Stanley Cup champions set off in pursuit of defending their title against a Washington Capitals team whose window for winning isn’t as open as it was a few years ago. Which Alex Ovechkin will we see out of the gate? The one who had 22 points in his first 27 games, or the one who scored 34 in his final 21 games to win the Hart Trophy? The Caps go as Ovi goes.

Adam Oates enters his second season with the Capitals and he’s looking to make tweaks to make the team better. Nothing as major as switching Ovechkin’s wing position, as he did last year though. Washington Post

The Blackhawks add to their history with another banner raising ceremony tonight. Awkward moments to be had by Mike Kostka and Nik Khabibulin. Chicago Tribune

Of note: Washington captain Alex Ovechkin was the first Russian Torchbearer for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Ovechkin carried the Olympic Torch after its ignition in a ceremony at Olympia, Greece, on Sunday.

Player To Watch: Mikhail Grabovski joined the Capitals to replace Mike Ribeiro as the second line center and he was bought-out by the Maple Leafs despite an analytics crowd that believes he’s much more productive than Tyler Bozak. Grabovski sometimes lets emotion get the better of him – but there’s nothing wrong with having some passion in your game. He certainly has a chip on his shoulder and will start trying to prove Toronto wrong tonight.

Over/under 5.5 goals: Definitely taking the over on this one.

Winnipeg at Edmonton
The Jets start a new era in the Western Conference against an Oilers team that desperately needs to show maturation. Edmonton’s core players are one year older and management did their best to add reliable veterans in the off-season. Both teams have something to prove this year: The Oilers need to prove they’re better; the Jets need to prove they’re worth the investment management has thrown down on the roster.

Tim Campbell lists five priorities for the Jets this season. I’ll add in a sixth: Make the playoffs. Winnipeg Free Press

Meanwhile, Robert Tychowski lists five reason why you should pick Edmonton for the playoffs and five reasons why you shouldn’t. Is there a more polarizing team in predictions than Edmonton? Edmonton Sun

Player To Watch: Two years in a row Blake Wheeler has got frustrated with his slow start – and both times he turned on a switch to have a strong year. He has to get out of the gate hot this year, as the Jets need to get to the playoffs to avoid cultivating a losing culture. Wheeler has been their best player over two season in Winnipeg.

Of note: Dallas Eakins will coach in his first regular season NHL game and first as the Edmonton Oilers new Head Coach, after being named coach on June 10, 2013

Over/under 5.5 goals: I’ll again take the over. Who says there’s not enough goal scoring in the NHL?

It’s the best time of year. Hockey’s back!