We sit more than two months from the first Chicago Blackhawks game since the team won its third Stanley Cup in six seasons. Sure, it’s a preseason outing, but it’s something.
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We’ve been passing the time during the Blackhawks’ summer break with a couple countdowns, but it’s never too early to look ahead to next season’s schedule. As with any season’s slate, there are some more attractive games fans will want to tune in for or even buy a ticket to, if at all possible.
Here’s a look at some of those outings, and why you should look forward to them:
Every preseason game at the United Center
Why you should tune in: Hopefully at least one of these games will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet and/or WGN 720-AM radio. Though preseason outings typically see younger players fighting for regular-season roster spots, the Blackhawks’ home preseason schedule offers some awesome viewing opportunities.
Chicago opens its exhibition slate Tuesday, Sept. 22, with a 7:30 p.m. start against the Detroit Red Wings. Four days later, the St. Louis Blues come to town. So which opponent could be equally exciting in the wake of games against two of the franchise’s biggest rivals? The Dallas Stars, who come to town for the preseason finale Saturday, Oct. 3. Being the last preseason game, we can expect to see Patrick Sharp back in the United Center. The Blackhawks will likely save any “thank you” festivities for the teams’ first regular-season game at the Madhouse, but it’ll still be nice to have Sharp back in Chicago.
New York Rangers at Chicago Blackhawks; Wednesday, Oct. 7, 7 p.m.
Why you should tune in: The Blackhawks will raise their 2015 Stanley Cup champions banner into the UC’s rafters. Recent banner-raising ceremonies in Chicago and Los Angeles (only one other team, Boston, has won the Cup in the last six seasons) have taken on a weird, somber tone. Sure, players depart from championship teams in the offseason. But it’s supposed to be a celebration. Hopefully it looks and sounds like one this year. On top of this, the Blackhawks played a few fantastic games against New York last season. Maybe they can run Henrik Lundqvist out of the net to see former Blackhawk Antti Raanta back in action.
Da Windy City
Chicago Blackhawks at New York Islanders; Friday, Oct. 9, 6:30 p.m.
Why you should tune in: Several early games on this list. This one is here because it will be the Islanders’ first game in their new Brooklyn-based home. There should be an electric atmosphere on hand, and the Isles play a fun, fast style similar to what the Blackhawks typically deploy.
Columbus Blue Jackets at Chicago Blackhawks; Saturday, Oct. 17, 7:30 p.m.
Why you should tune in: Brandon Saad makes his return to the United Center. It’ll be interesting to see what type of reaction he receives from the Blackhawks faithful. It should be a positive one, but some fans may still be upset at this point over how Saad left town. It’ll also be the first game for Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Corey Tropp and Jeremy Morin against their former teammates in Columbus.
Edmonton Oilers at Chicago Blackhawks; Sunday, Nov. 8, 7 p.m.
Why you should tune in: The 2015 draft’s crown jewel, Connor McDavid, visits the United Center for the first time as a big-league player (unless Edmonton royally messes up his development … there’s precedent). Recent games against Edmonton have been far more exciting than you’d expect, and the Oilers look as though they could be on the upswing … again. Okay, this could be a game you end up turning off after one period. But tune in anyway to be sure.
Winnipeg Jets at Chicago Blackhawks; Sunday, Dec. 6, 4 p.m.
Why you should tune in: If last season was any indication, there may be a solid intradivision rivalry growing here. The Jets play a very hard-nosed style and will try to get under an opponent’s skin. And they had the Blackhawks’ number last season, taking three of five games in the regular-season series. There are several former Blackhawks in Winnipeg as well, adding a little spice to things. There’s an additional chance to see these teams play at the UC later in the week, too (Friday, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m.).
Chicago Blackhawks at Buffalo Sabres; Saturday, Dec. 19, noon
Why you should tune in: This is our chance to see the revamped Sabres in action, likely including second-overall draft pick Jack Eichel. Blackhawks fans in attendance can also come up with creative signs regarding Ryan O’Reilly’s recent stupidity. This could also be Blackhawks fans’ first chance to see Johnny Oduya again, should the Sabres wind up signing him this offseason. The team is reportedly still interested, so it’s a possibility.
St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks; Sunday, Jan. 24, 6 p.m.
Why you should tune in: We’ll be far enough into the regular season for this game to have a decent amount of meaning. The Blues have parted ways with useless players like T.J. Oshie and Barret Jackman while signing the very useful Vladimir Tarasenko to a long-term deal this offseason. With at least a half-commitment to intelligence (David Backes is still the captain) from St. Louis, this game should be pretty entertaining.
Dallas Stars at Chicago Blackhawks; Saturday, Feb. 6, 7 p.m.
Why you should tune in: A lot of these games are conveniently placed on weekends. Fans will be especially happy about that in this case, as Sharp makes his regular-season return to Chicago. The Blackhawks are likely to plan a minor ceremony for the first media timeout. You won’t be blamed for shedding a tear. Oh, we also might get to see if trading Stephen Johns sucks as much as we think it might.
St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks; Thursday, April 7, 7:30 p.m.
Why you should tune in: If the 2015-16 season goes according to plan for these teams, no one should need to tell Blackhawks fans why they need to tune in. Even if St. Louis is getting rid of some of its uselessness, these teams will still be playing some crazy tight hockey while jostling for playoff position. This is the regular-season home finale for the Blackhawks, too. The atmosphere on Madison should be off the charts by regular-season standards.
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