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.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

Leafs’ Marleau becomes 18th NHL player to reach 1,500-game milestone

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Patrick Marleau’s three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs will end two months before his 41st birthday, a summer when many believe his NHL career will come to an end.

But as he celebrated game No. 1,500 Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the veteran forward was talking about reaching another kind of milestone.

“I’m going to keep going as long as I can,” he said Wednesday morning via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “I don’t know if my wife’s ready to have me at home full-time yet. If I feel good and still think I can contribute then I’ll keep it going.”

Marleau is the 18th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 game mark. Should he stay healthy and play the entire 82-game slate or close to that, he’ll enter the 2018-19 season 11th all-time in that category. Gordie Howe holds the record with 1,767 games played.

Health has helped the 38-year-old Marleau reach the mark in his 20th NHL season. He hasn’t missed a regular game since the 2008-09 season and hasn’t played fewer than 74 games in a full season in his entire career.

Marleau has gone from being the youngest player in the league to the sixth-oldest in the span of 20 years and considering his history of good health, better fitness regiments of players and treatment by training staffs, challenging Howe may not be a crazy idea.

Of course, that is unless Jaromir Jagr sticks around. If that happens then Marleau would likely have to settle for No. 2.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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This week’s edition of NBCSN’s Rivalry Night will feature a central division clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

It’s still early days, but the two sides are battling atop the Central, with the Blackhawks powered by great starts from a number of players including Brandon Saad and Ryan Hartman. The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to halt a two-game skid after winning their first four games of the season. The game also features the return of NHL on NBC analyst Ed Olczyk to the booth.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Blues get Alexander Steen back against Blackhawks

Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk’s ‘best medicine’

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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