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Bruins start Stanley Cup defense vs. Flyers

| Friday, June 24, 2011

NEW YORK — The Boston Bruins will begin defense of their Stanley Cup title against the Philadelphia Flyers as part of an opening night tripleheader on Oct. 6.

The NHL announced its schedule for the 2011-12 season Thursday on the day off between the league's awards ceremony that took place in Las Vegas and the draft that begins Friday.

Winnipeg, the new home of the former Atlanta Thrashers, returns to the NHL on Oct. 9 when the still unnamed team hosts the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal will also be a part of the opening night festivities when the Canadiens visit the rival Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks will close out the night when they welcome the Penguins to town.

The New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks will start their seasons over two days in Europe. A total of four games will be played in Stockholm, Helsinki, and Berlin, marking the first time the NHL will stage a game in Germany.

The regular season ends Saturday, April 7, with a 15-game slate featuring all 30 teams.

One schedule highlight missing Thursday was the confirmation of where next season's Winter Classic will be held. It has been widely reported in recent weeks that the Rangers will visit Philadelphia on Jan. 2 at Citizens Bank Park, the home of baseball's Phillies.

The Rangers are on the schedule to be in Philadelphia on Jan. 2. A league spokesman said an announcement about the ever-popular outdoor game is expected soon.

The Flyers would be playing in the Winter Classic for the second time, after visiting Boston in 2010. It would be the Rangers' first appearance in the event that became a New Year's staple in 2008 at Buffalo. Pittsburgh hosted Washington in last season's Classic.

The Rangers' season will include lots of travel at the start, beyond just their trip to Sweden. Because of renovations at Madison Square Garden, New York will begin on a seven-game road trip that will also take them to Long Island and a four-game jaunt to Western Canada — including their first visit to Winnipeg since the Jets left for Phoenix in 1996.

New York will finally hold its home opener Oct. 27 against Toronto. The Rangers will be rewarded for their tough start at the end of the season, when they play 10 of their final 15 and 19 of the last 33 at home.

Other teams have it even worse than the Rangers. The Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks both hit the road for nine-game trips. The circus will force out the Blackhawks, and tennis will send the Sharks packing in February.

Every club will get a break from the league's 1,230-game schedule from Jan. 26-30 for All-Star festivities that will be held in Ottawa.

In all, every team will play six games against each divisional rival, four games against the remaining clubs in its conference, and 18 nonconference games for a total of 82. Every team will face the other 29 teams at least once.

Winnipeg's new team will face a rugged travel schedule in its first season. Because of the late timing of the relocation from Atlanta, a sale and move approved by the NHL board of governors this week, the club will remain in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference this season before an expected shift to the West next season.

Winnipeg will face division rivals Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay and Washington six times each and the other teams in the Eastern Conference four times.

The old and new Winnipeg franchises will face off twice next season. The former Jets, now the Phoenix Coyotes, will return to Winnipeg on Dec. 1.

As the Bruins continue to celebrate their first championship since 1972, they will host the Canucks on Jan. 7 in the only meeting of the season between the Stanley Cup finalists that played an epic and nasty seven-game series.

Boston will visit Chicago on Oct. 15 in an Original Six matchup of the past two Cup winners.

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