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Salt won't spoil my hockey feast

Got an appetite for hockey that nothing else could satisfy? Oh, and cable, too, you'll need that. Well, through the rest of the month, Center Ice is free. Here's how I'll be taking advantage of it this weekend.

It's over. It's all over. It being the lockout and the wait for hockey.

Call me a flip-flopper. That's fine. But I am, in fact, geeked for opening weekend in the NHL. That's not to say I'm not salty. As SVM managing editor Jeff Rogers acknowledged earlier this afternoon, it takes many years for my bitterness to dissipate.

We were talking hockey – well explaining it, really – with SVM multimedia guru Angel Sierra. When I referred to Patrick Kane's Stanley Cup-clinching goal against my Flyers in Game 6 of the 2010 finals as the "softest Cup-clinching goal the sport will ever see," Jeff responded asking, "You're not bitter at all, are you?"

I am. I'm German. This is how it goes. And I'm yet to forgive the league and its players for any of its stoppages.

That being said, the NHL is back and, even if it doesn't look like the NHL I adore until the playoffs are nigh, I feel obliged to break down five must-see games this opening weekend. Your local cable provider should feature NHL Center Ice, which you'll have full access for free through the rest of the month.

In order to properly plan for the first two games, you'll want to either set up a second TV in the living room, subscribe to NHL Gamecenter (50 bucks for the season might be a far cry from the free olive branch fans were seeking, but it's a good deal), or call a local watering hole to make sure they can put both games on. Heck, I've already done that for you, if you'd care to join us at The Stables in Dixon.


Chicago at Los AngelesWhen: 2 p.m.Where: Staples Center, L.A.Why: Speaking of salt, let me get this off my chest: Congrats to former Flyers teammates on the ice and at the clubs Mike Richards and Jeff Carter on doing what they could not in Philly. There I said it. Let's move on. If the Blackhawks will be contenders this season, that will have to be their netminders' mantra: "Let's move on." Corey Crawford and Ray Emery will see more rapid-fire action than Latvia did against Russia in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The Hawks are one of seven teams that will play two games this weekend. Get used to the concept of back-to-back games. If the Hawks' tilt shouldn't go well against the defending Stanley Cup champs, there won't be a lot of time to stew.

Pittsburgh at PhiladelphiaWhen: 2 p.m.Where: Wells Fargo Center, PhillyWhy: Personal bias aside, here's all you need to know: 56 goals and 19 total majors and misconducts during these bitter rivals' first-round series last April. The series was as much a sieve-fest as it was an exhibition in creative scoring. If there's a word beyond loathe, I don't know it. But it would apply to how these teams feel about each other. In addition to lots of scoring and bad blood, there's plenty of star power. Love him or hate him (I fall into the latter, naturally) Sydney Crosby, is healthy. Add in the immovable Evgeni Malkin and recently annointed captain of the Flyers, mini-Forsberg Claude Giroux, and you've got a five-star affair. Let's hope the goalies show up. I'm looking at you, Ilya Bryzgalov. No more Roman Cechmanek impersonations, please.

New York at BostonWhen: 6 p.m.Where: TD Bank GardenWhy: I know I'm not the only one eager to see how the Rangers' shiny, new acquisition Rick Nash acclimates to the big market. He likely won't be the first 30-goal-scoring machine to skip a beat in New York, especially since he's arriving via the armpit of the NHL, Columbus, Ohio. I'm also eager to see 20-year-old Tyler Seguin, who since making his debut with the B's in October, 2010, has been worth the price of admission alone. Let's also watch Nathan Horton closely. A skilled sniper, he hasn't played since suffering a concussion in January. The bottom line is, if the Rangers can't move Milan Lucic's hunchback from the crease, I don't care what King is minding the net. It's gonna be a long night in the Kingdom of Lundqvist.

Detroit at St. LouisWhen: 7 p.m.Where: Scottrade CenterWhy: Let's face it. If you're a local SVM reader, you're likely a Blackhawks fan. Unless the Rangers-Bruins game has you riveted, switch over to this bad boy to do some Central Division scouting. These are two teams that are, in my opinion, moving in opposite directions. The Red Wings are old. Like, making the Lakers look like spring chickens old. For crying out loud, ageless (40, to be clear) wonder Mike Knuble just signed a tryout contract with their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. The Blues might play a brand of hockey that makes the trappin' New Jersey Devils circa 1995 look thrilling, but they do a pretty stinking nice job with it. If you like a grind-it-out affair, it doesn't matter who you pull for. This game's for you.


Chicago at PhoenixWhen: 9 p.m.Where: Jobing.com Arena, Glendale, Ariz.Why: Nothing like testing we sports staffers' mettle with a West Coast swing right off the bat. Deadline humor aside, this one obviously pits Western Conference outsers against oustees. Goon extraordinaire Raffi Torres will not be on the ice for either of the Coyotes' games this weekend, thanks to a hefty suspension levied by Brendan Shanahan. Nor will he play any of the next six games. As for the victim of Torres' goonery, Marian Hossa will be on the ice. His affect on the Hawks' special teams, which were abysmal even before he was taken off on a stretcher, can't be expressed with numbers. This game will be very enlightening. With no exhibition games under their belt, both teams will be playing their second games in as many days. Ergo, I hate to look at it this way, but the team that makes fewer sloppy mistakes will win.

– Follow Assistant Sports Editor Christopher Heimerman (@CHeimerman_SVM) on Twitter, or email him at cheimerman@saukvalley.com

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