Alec Martinez, Kyle Clifford, Henrik Lundqvist

Fourteen dates to mark in the 2014-15 season

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The NHL released the 2014-15 schedule on Sunday, unleashing a floodgate of observations for all 30 teams. There are plenty of games to get excited about, yet some stand out more than others, at least for national audiences. Hockey fans would be wise to pay special attention to these 14 dates during the upcoming campaign (just 108 days away).

Note: a few of these entries are based on reports, so outdoor games/special theme days like Hockey Day in America may vary.

Oct. 8  – The season begins with a four-game slate, including the Los Angeles Kings hosting the San Jose Sharks while raising their 2014 Stanley Cup banner (ouch).

For a list of the best home-openers, click here. A full list is here.

Oct. 11 – The first of two weekends (the other being the last day of the season) in which all 30 teams play.

Oct. 16 – Milan Lucic gets his first chance to, uh, face Dale Weise and the Montreal Canadiens.

Nov. 26 – Martin St. Louis and the New York Rangers visit the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Nov. 28 – “Black Friday” presents a hefty 11-game slate of games, which could help distract you from all the hasty purchases you made earlier in the day.

Nov. 29 – The Blackhawks visit the Kings for their first game since that classic seven-game series.

Jan. 1 – The Washington Capitals host the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Winter Classic.

Jan. 8 – Kings host the Rangers in the first of two games between the 2014 Stanley Cup finalists.

Jan. 16 – For the first time ever, Barry Trotz will coach the visiting team at Bridgestone Arena as his new team the Washington Capitals visit the Nashville Predators.

Jan. 22 – 26 – The All-Star break in Columbus. One would single out the game alone, yet the skills competition is often the real highlight.

Feb. 14 – Potentially Hockey Day in Canada, according to Awful Announcing’s Steve Lepore.

Feb. 21 – Perhaps a sensible time for the Sharks to host the Kings in an outdoor game?

Also on the day – Peter Laviolette’s Predators visit the Philadelphia Flyers.

Feb. 22 – Potentially Hockey Day in America, also according to Lepore. If correct, it would make sense; all-American matchups on that day include Washington – Philadelphia, Chicago – Boston, Nashville – Buffalo, Florida – Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay – Colorado, Rangers – Columbus and Dallas – Minnesota.

April 11 – The regular season ends with all 30 teams playing during a Saturday extravaganza. Any last-minute races can be decided in dramatic fashion.

April 11 also represents the final New York Islanders regular season game at Nassau Coliseum, as they’ll move to Brooklyn in 2015-16.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

***

As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.