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Five highlights from the 2013-14 NHL schedule

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On Friday, the NHL released its 2013-14 regular-season schedule and we here at PHT (okay, it’s just me) have identified five of the biggest highlights.

Click here for the full 2013-14 NHL schedule

1) Six Outdoor Games

These contests will fall under three umbrellas: the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series (four games), the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic (one game) and the Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic (one game).

In chronological order, here’s when they’ll be played:

Jan. 1 — Toronto vs. Detroit at Michigan Stadium (Winter Classic)

Jan. 25 — Anaheim vs. Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium (Stadium Series)

Jan. 26 — New York Rangers vs. New Jersey at Yankee Stadium (Stadium Series)

Jan. 29 — New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders at Yankee Stadium (Stadium Series)

Mar. 1 — Pittsburgh vs. Chicago at Soldier Field (Stadium Series)

Mar. 2 — Ottawa vs. Vancouver at BC Place (Heritage Classic)

2) Opening night

Three games will be played on Tuesday, Oct. 1, beginning with the first contest of the year — a historic Original Six matchup between Toronto and Montreal.

That’ll be followed by Chicago vs. Washington at the United Center — featuring the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony — and capped off with Edmonton at Winnipeg in the final game of the evening.

Of note, you can catch the ‘Hawks-Caps game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET).

3) Closing weekend

Breaking from the “Super Saturday” theme of having all 30 teams play on the final day of the regular season, the NHL has opted to load up the final weekend — Saturday, Apr. 12 and Sunday, Apr. 13.

Saturday will feature 18 teams participating in nine games, while Sunday will have 20 teams partaking in 10 games.

Of note, the final game of the regular season will take place in Phoenix, as the Coyotes host the Stars at 9 p.m. ET.

4) Return of the Thanksgiving Showdown

This year’s schedule features the return of the league’s annual Black Friday game, as the Bruins will take on the Rangers at TD Garden in a day-after-Thanksgiving matinee (1 p.m. ET.)

The event began in 2011 (played between the Bruins and Red Wings) but was canceled last season due to the lockout. The Bruins and Rangers were slated to participate in the 2012 event.

5) The Olympic Break

The NHL will play 1,230 games this year, but none during a 16-day break from Feb. 9-25, during which NHLers will participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

This will mark the fifth consecutive winter games the NHL has participated in. Involvement dates back to the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, the first in which professional players were allowed to take part.

Red Wings look to future in net … a future possibly without Howard

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 07:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a save against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on April 7, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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This summer looks like it could be one of changes for the Detroit Red Wings, even beyond the most obvious storyline of Pavel Datsyuk‘s future.

One area where the Red Wings would like to make some tweaks is in net, namely in trading Jimmy Howard. The Detroit Free-Press points out that GM Ken Holland admitted that moving the former franchise netminder “might be good for the organization.”

It’s reasonable to wonder what kind of market there will be for Howard, whose deal ($5.29 million cap hit through 2018-19) looks pretty tough to stomach on paper.

Maybe it’s best to consider the Red Wings’ options if Howard starts the 2016-17 season off on a strong note, or something of that nature. Perhaps an expansion draft could “solve” that problem if Detroit cannot find any takers?

The Red Wings remain forward-thinking and patient, which likely explains why the Free-Press focuses on their confidence with prospect Jared Coreau.

“In the big scheme of things, he’ll play in Grand Rapids for another year, but now we know he can play a lot of minutes if needed,” Goalie coach Jeff Salajko said. “Jimmy Howard played four years in the minors. We’re not rushing Jared, but he is going to be an NHL goalie, there is no doubt in my mind about that.”

In other words, a pairing of Petr Mrazek and Coreau wouldn’t just be a cost-effective duo … it might just be the Red Wings’ ideal scenario in the not-too-distant future.

Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.

After advancing to Cup final, DeBoer had Sharks fans coming up to him with ‘tears in their eyes’

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 29: Head coach Peter DeBoer addresses the media during the NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Consol Energy Center on May 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.

Now he knows.

“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”

The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.

More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.

It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”

Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.

“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”

Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot

Kopitar will play for Slovenia in Olympic qualifiers

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13: Anze Kopitar #11 of Slovenia skates against Russia during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.

RTV Slovenia has the story here.

The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.

The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.

Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.

Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.

Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win