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2018-19 NHL season begins tonight -- here's what to watch

NHL season starts Wednesday night with 4 games

Erik Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks in action during their preseason game against the Calgary Flames at SAP Center on September 27, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The 2018-19 NHL season begins Wednesday night with four games. 

Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs (7 p.m., SN, RDS)

The Montreal Canadiens will take on their rivals in Toronto to start the season. Shea Weber has been named Montreal's newest team captain in light of Max Pacioretty's departure to Las Vegas. The Canadiens made a lot of changes up front including the additions of forwards Tomas Tatar and Max Domi. Forward Alex Galchenyuk was sent to Arizona for Domi. 

The Maple Leafs, of course, made one of the blockbuster free agent signings of the offseason -- John Tavares. He joins a strong Toronto offense that's trying to get the franchise back to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1967. Forward William Nylander remains without a contract, however, as the season gets underway without him. 

Bruins vs. Capitals (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, TVAS)

The Washington Capitals are a year older but without the pressure they faced in previous seasons now that they've won the Stanley Cup. Alex Ovechkin's team remains a serious contender, backstopped by goalie Braden Holtby and led by stars Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom. Head coach Todd Reirden took over the job left by Barry Trotz. 

Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins still boast one of the most dangerous lines in the league with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. But does Boston have enough depth and strength on the blueline to be considered a real playoff team? That's what we're looking to find out. 

Flames vs. Canucks (10 p.m., SN)

What will happen with the Calgary Flames this season? Are they finally going to make a run for the playoffs, or will things be sour by December? Forward James Neal was added to help this Calgary team find some sort of consistency on offense. It can't be the Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan show every night. In a trade with Carolina this offseason Calgary also added forward Elias Lindholm for the same reason: better offense on a nightly basis. 

The Vancouver Canucks are without the Swedish twins, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, for the first time since the year 2000. The duo retired after 18 seasons, leaving a lasting mark on the Canucks and the NHL. But now what? Vancouver has a list of young players they're trying to figure out.

Perhaps the most exciting prospect for the Canucks is 19-year-old rookie Elias Pettersson. The 5th overall draft pick in 2017 is slated to center the team's second line after an impressive camp and preseason. 

Ducks vs. Sharks (10:30 p.m., NBCSN)

This is a Pacific Division showdown between two teams at differing stages. On the one end, Anaheim is a team struggling to maintain its identity as a Western Conference contender. Forward Corey Perry's knee surgery, which has him out for at least five months, does not help the Ducks' situation. But the good news is goalie John Gibson remains their strongest player. Good goaltending can go a long way, as any hockey fan knows. 

On the other end, the San Jose Sharks added defenseman Erik Karlsson in the offseason, and that's all you need to know. They are one of the favorites for the Stanley Cup this season with the best defense on paper and a list of offensive weapons up front. The Sharks will look to own this division, starting Wednesday night. 

Oilers are still in Germany

While the NHL gets underway Wednesday night, the Edmonton Oilers will be playing an exhibition game against the Cologne Sharks (Kölner Haie) in Germany. The Oilers won't start the NHL season until Saturday afternoon against the New Jersey Devils. 

Here's what's on the schedule for Thursday: 

  • Bruins vs. Sabres (7 p.m.)
  • Capitals vs. Penguins (7 p.m.)
  • Islanders vs. Hurricanes (7 p.m.)
  • Predators vs. Rangers (7:30 p.m.)
  • Blackhawks vs. Senators (7:30 p.m.)
  • Blue Jackets vs. Red Wings (7:30 p.m.)
  • Jets vs. Blues (8 p.m.)
  • Coyotes vs. Stars (8:30 p.m.)
  • Wild vs. Avalanche (9 p.m.)
  • Flyers vs. Golden Knights (10 p.m.)

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