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2023/24 NHL season: Five games to watch in opening week

Preseason is done and dusted and the NHL rosters are all set as the long road to the Stanley Cup begins this week.

Expect thrills and spills aplenty as the top league of the world's fastest and toughest team sport gets underway and the Vegas Golden Knights prepare to defend their Stanley Cup.

Here we pick out five games that will worth tuning in for in the opening week.

Chicago Blackhawks @ Pittsburgh Penguins

WhatChicago Blackhawks @ Pittsburgh Penguins
WherePPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh
When8PM ET, Tuesday October 10
How to watchESPN, SN & TVA
Money LineCHI Blackhawks +205, PIT Penguins -245

It was a disastrous season for Chicago Blackhawks last term, but their reward for the pain was the ability to draft a potential generational talent in Connor Bedard.

The Vancouver-born starlet made an immediate impression in the Blackhawks' first preseason game, assisting on both goals in an OT win over St Louis.

Chicago also picked up veterans Nick Foligno and Taylor Hall from Boston's record-breaking squad and their presence should help Bedard settle.

This opening-night contest pits Bedard against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby, the greatest player of his own generation, and it should be box-office stuff.

The Pens missed the playoffs last season after a 16-year streak of making the dance, and they have undergone big changes over the summer.

Kyle Dubas replaced Ron Hextall as general manager, while on the ice the addition of star defenseman Erik Karlsson heads a host of changes including a complete revamp of the bottom-six forwards.

The teams each won on the road in their two meetings last year.

Seattle Kraken @ Vegas Golden Knights

WhatSeattle Kraken @ Vegas Golden Knights
WhereT-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
When10:30PM ET, Tuesday October 10
How to watchESPN, SN & TVA
Money LineSEA Kraken +150, VGS Golden Knights -170

Starting their seventh season as a franchise the Vegas Golden Knights will raise a championship banner to the roof of T-Mobile Arena and they are sure to make it a spectacular occasion.

In the house to witness it, apart from their already fervent fanbase, will be the only team with a younger tenure in the NHL than themselves, the Seattle Kraken.

Seattle built on their debut season with a solid showing last year, scoring 100 regular-season points before eliminating reigning champions Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs.

Vegas won three of the four meetings between the teams last year, and both start the season with largely the same squads they ended last season with, having made minimal off-season moves.

Despite the potential distraction of the pre-game ceremony, the home side look likely to make a winning start to their Stanley Cup defense.

Chicago Blackhawks @ Boston Bruins

WhatChicago Blackhawks @ Boston Bruins
WhereTD Garden, Boston
When7:30PM ET, Wednesday, October 11
Money LineCHI Blackhawks +255, BOS Bruins -315

Next up for Bedard and the Blackhawks is a trip to another much-changed outfit for the new season, the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins broke records with their phenomenal regular-season last year, before blowing a 3-1 lead in a spectacular collapse in the first round of the playoffs.

That their conquerors Florida Panthers went all the way to the finals will be no consolation and they begin the campaign without their top two centers of last year, David Krejci and inspirational captain Patrice Bergeron.

Brad Marchand will wear the C for the Bs this season, and the often controversial Halifax native showed his maturity when he was effectively placed in that role during a Bergeron injury absence late last term.

Pre-season has seen plenty of tinkering with the Bruins' lines and that is likely to continue as they search for a new identity post-Bergeron, but things seem to be coming together and they have unearthed a young star of their own in 19-year-old Matt Poitras.

The Ontario-born teenager has earned a roster spot with a natural scoring touch the Bruins will hope he can continue.

This match sees a quick return to TD Garden for Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno, who both played their part in Boston's success last season both on and off the ice.

Edmonton Oilers @ Vancouver Canucks

WhatEdmonton Oilers @ Vancouver Canucks
WhereRogers Arena, Vancouver
When10PM ET, Wednesday October 11
How to watchSN
Money LineEDM Oilers -160, VAN Canucks +140

Defense was a big problem for the Vancouver Canucks last year as they failed to reach the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years.

It wasn't all doom and gloom though, as the team improved after Rick Tocchet took over from Bruce Boudreau as head coach and goalie Thatcher Demko returned from injury, and they actually ended the season in decent form.

They need Demko to stay healthy this time, but the additions of key penalty killers Carson Soucy and Ian Cole should also help shore up that leaky blueline.

And it will be a baptism of fire for the Nucks' new-look defense as Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers come to Rogers Arena.

The Oilers were the top offensive team last season with 325 goals scored, 20 more than the Bruins who were second, and the best powerplay the NHL has ever seen.

McDavid has plenty of trophies in his cabinet, including the Art Ross five times and the Hart three times, but the one he really wants, the Stanley Cup, still eludes him.

Last year the Oilers lost in the second round, when they came up against the Golden Knights and the big Cup will again be their aim.

Vancouver's expectations will be a lot lower, but it will be an early confidence-booster if they can keep the scoreline respectable on Wednesday.

Minnesota Wild @ Toronto Maple Leafs

WhatMinnesota Wild @ Toronto Maple Leafs
WhereScotiabank Arna, Toronto
When7PM ET, Saturday, October 14
How to watchCBC & SN
Money LineMIN Wild +155, TOR Maple Leafs -175

Toronto Maple Leafs finally made it beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004 last year, but their joy was short-lived as they were beaten 4-1 by the Panthers in the second.

Despite that, they are +800 market leaders to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1967.

Auston Matthews and co should have a straightforward opening game against Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, but they are likely to face more of a test when Minnesota Wild visit on Saturday night.

The Wild are in cap hell thanks to expensive buyouts in previous years and they were unable to keep most of their deadline additions of last season, while the burly Pat Marron is their only significant addition.

However, they do have some decent players. Kirill Kaprizov reached 40 goals for the second straight season, while Matt Boldy had 31.

The Wild ended last season with 103 points, good enough for third in the Central Division, and they remain a team not to be taken lightly.

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