Truncated NHL season kicks off with 13 blockbuster games

Fitzgerald Cecilio – 4E Sports Reporter

New York, NY, United States (4E Sports) – After three months of bickering and haggling, the much-awaited drop of the puck will finally happen when the National Hockey League begins its truncated season with thirteen games Saturday.

Defending champion Los Angeles Kings will raise their championship banner before beginning their title defense against the Chicago Blackhawks at 3 p.m. ET. The Kings defeated the New Jersey Devils in a six-game championship showdown last June.

In other blockbuster games, the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Philadelphia Flyers while the New York Rangers, with new star Rick Nash in tow, visit the Boston Bruins.

The schedule also has the Ottawa Senators visiting the Winnipeg Jets, the Toronto Maple Leafs taking on the Montreal Canadiens and the Anaheim Ducks closing out the night against the Vancouver Canucks.

The season will be 48 games, down from the standard 82. The regular season ends April 27. The 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs begin three days later.

The league also announced that training camps will begin Sunday.

Based on the schedule released by the league, each team will play 48 games entirely against clubs within its own conference.

There will be no inter-conference play until the Eastern and Western champions arrive at the Stanley Cup Final in June.

The 2012-13 schedule matrix will focus on the most-heated rivalries in the game, especially with each team playing 18 of its games against division foes.

Eight of those 18 games are against two of the teams in the division (four each; two home and two away); five games (three home and two away) are against one team from the division; and five games (two home and three away) are against the remaining divisional opponent.

Clubs will play three games against each of the 10 remaining non-divisional opponents from within the conference, playing half those clubs in a two-home, one-away series and the other half in a two-away, one-home set.

The NHL and the players’ union ratified a new collective bargaining agreement Saturday, ending the lockout that began September 15.

During the lockout, the NHL scrapped its preseason, all games through 2012 and threatened to scratch the entire season if a deal couldn’t be reached.

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