Clear your calendars: Games to watch out for in the 2015-16 season

Bobby Bevilacqua

alain vigneault and bench 4-18

Hockey season is around the corner, and excitement is building. Here are some of the biggest games to watch out for throughout the season. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

With every passing day, summer draws closer to its end. While that’s never happy news, especially for students, it does mean that hockey is closer and closer to beginning once again.

Last season, the Rangers season came to a disappointing end in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. But with every new season comes new opportunities, and another chance to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Any game can be exciting, because you never really know what will happen in each game. But here are some games that should be interesting, exciting, or eventful in the 2015-16 season.

September 21st

While this is only a preseason game, it will be the first taste of a live-action hockey game in quite some time. The preseason opener will be at MSG against the New Jersey Devils, and we’ll get to see some prospects play, and what is sure to be an intense battle for roster spots on the Rangers’ bottom six.

October 7th

The regular season kicks off with a road game against the Chicago Blackhawks, where the Rangers will have to watch Chicago’s banner ceremony, as they hoist the 2014-15 Stanley Cup Championship to the rafters. Hopefully that gives the team a bit of motivation as they begin their next season.

October 9th & 10th

rangers vs blue jackets 1-16

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The Colombus Blue Jackets are going to be a really good team next year, barring injuries. With the acquisition of Brandon Saad, joining forces with Scott Hartnell, Ryan Johansen, Brandon Dubinsky, and new captain Nick Foligno, their offense will be improved, and deadlier. Sergei Bobrovsky is also a quality goaltender, and this is certainly a brewing rivalry. This past season, the games against the Blue Jackets were very exciting and intense, and I expect nothing different this season.

October 25th

The Rangers will be playing their first game against the new look Calgary Flames, who pulled off highway robbery when they traded for Dougie Hamilton from the Bruins, promptly signing him to a six year deal. That gives them a defensive group of Hamilton, Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, Kris Russel and Dennis Wideman. WOW.

Along with their outstanding defense is Calder Trophy runner-up Johnny Gaudreau, a revitalized Jiri Hudler and the young Sean Monahan. This is a young team on the rise, and they’ll be fun to watch, especially with their high powered defense.

November 3rd

Rangers vs Capitals Game 5 faceoff 5-8

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

This game is bound to be emotionally charged, as the Capitals come back to play in MSG for the first time since being eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals. The Capitals did lose a lot of depth with the departures of Joel Ward, Eric Fehr and Troy Brouwer, but TJ Oshie and Justin Williams have made the trip to D.C. alongside Rocket Richard Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin.

November 19th

This will be the Rangers first matchup against the Lightning since they eliminated New York in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. This game will be played in Tampa Bay, and while Martin St. Louis won’t be there to face his former team, Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman will all be facing down their former club.

November 21st

Just two nights later, the Rangers will be playing in Sunrise Florida, taking on the Florida Panthers for the first time this season. This isn’t a rivalry or division game, I just think that the Panthers will be a very fun and competitive team to watch. Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad is on his way to becoming an elite two-way defender in this league, and young stars Brandon Pirri, Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov make up a young core on a team that is hungry for a playoff berth.

The Panthers also made the move to acquire Reilly Smith from the Boston Bruins for Jimmy Hayes, which should add to their firepower. The ageless Jaromir Jagr will be there for a full season, and he was great for Florida at the end of last season, totaling 18 points (6-12-18) in just 20 games alongside Barkov and Huberdeau. The Panthers will be competitive next season, and a fun team to watch.

December 2nd

rangers vs islanders 2-16

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

This is not just the first meeting of the season between the Rangers and the Islanders, it will be a historic night as the Islanders will be playing their first season in franchise history at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The two teams will take their rejuvenated rivalry into a new stadium, and the games will be as heated and action packed as last season. Remember that 6-5 thriller at the Nassau Coliseum?

December 11th

cam talbot side profile 2-24

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Rangers will face the Edmonton Oilers for the first time this season, with this game taking place up in Alberta. We’re all assuming that the goalie matchup will be Henrik Lundqvist vs. Cam Talbot. It will be the first time that Talbot plays his former team, and his first season as a starting goalie. Talbot did a lot for the Rangers in his two seasons with the club, and it will be odd seeing him in blue and orange.

Also, the Oilers will honor their former player, coach, and general manager, Glen Sather. Sather coached the Oilers to four Stanley Cups in the 1980s, creating a dynasty with players like Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.

It will also be the first time that the Rangers face the first overall pick, Connor McDavid, as well as other fantastic young players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. This will be quite a game, and a night to remember.

Cam Talbot will make his return to Madison Square Garden just four nights later, where he’s sure to get a standing ovation.

December 22nd

The Rangers face the Anaheim Ducks for this first time during the upcoming season, and both Emerson Etem and Carl Hagelin will face their former teams for the first time ever. Per usual, both players will brush aside the importance of the game, but you know that both Hagelin and Etem will be playing at 110%, especially Etem, who is trying to prove to the Ducks that they made a mistake in trading him. This game will be played at MSG.

January 5th

The Dallas Stars will head into New York for the first meeting of the season, and this one is bound to have lots of goals and scoring chances. The Stars were very busy this offseason, making some big moves as they look to get back into the playoffs.

For starters, they added to their already outstanding offense by acquiring Patrick Sharp from the Chicago Blackhawks. He joins Tyler Seguin (37-40-77), Art Ross trophy winner Jamie Benn (35-52-87), and Jason Spezza (17-45-62). Sharp saw a downturn in production this season, with 43 goals in 68 games, but he will be just two seasons removed from a 78 point season.

They also added Johnny Oduya to bring experience and stability to the back end, and they also signed Antti Niemi to give them a goaltending duo of Niemi and Lehtonen. John Klingberg is coming off of a very strong rookie campaign, and this could be a very good team if all of the pieces come together.

January 25th

The Rangers will face the Buffalo Sabres for the first time this season, where they will face off against Jack Eichel, the second overall pick of the NHL Draft. The Sabres are now coached by Dan Bylsma, and have some new pieces, including Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane and Robin Lehner. They too should be more competitive, and Eichel is a great player, so it will be interesting to see the team in midseason form.

February 10th

Rangers vs Penguins Game 5 MSG Picture 4-24

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Surprisingly, the Rangers don’t play the Penguins until very late in the season, with the first game coming four months into the season. This will be the first time that the Blueshirts will see Phil Kessel in a Penguins jersey, which is crazy considering that he will be playing with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, both extremely skilled forwards. They also added some depth with Eric Fehr, but their pretty thin when it comes to their bottom six and their defensive corps.

These teams hate each other, and they almost always result in fights, hitting, lots of scoring and action packed games. This game will be played at MSG, the first time Pittsburgh will play there since being eliminated in five games in the first round of the playoffs.

Posted on August 14, 2015, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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