The countdown to the regular season is on, and the Golden Knights are set to play their first game a month from now.
The opener against Seattle on Oct. 12 at T-Mobile Arena pits the league’s two most recent expansion clubs and will be the official debut for the Kraken, making it one of the most anticipated games on the schedule.
From fan favorites returning to holiday games and rivalries renewed, the Knights’ fifth season should have something for everyone, including a February break for the Olympics.
With apologies to the postseason rematch at Montreal on Nov. 6, two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay’s visit to Las Vegas in December and the mid-April game at Edmonton that could help decide the Pacific Division, here are five games worth circling for the season:
Dec. 19, at New York Islanders — Goalie Robin Lehner developed a special relationship with Islanders fans during his one season on Long Island and hasn’t played there since leaving as a free agent in 2019. Chicago was scheduled to visit in April 2020, but Lehner was traded to the Knights before that. Last season, the Knights and Islanders didn’t play during the condensed schedule. The Islanders also are expected to be in their new arena near Belmont Park.
Dec. 31, vs. Anaheim — The New Year’s Eve day game returns after a one-year hiatus and hasn’t disappointed yet. Coincidentally, the Ducks were the opponent the last time the Knights hosted on the final day of the calendar year. Jonathan Marchessault scored twice in that game, including a third-period penalty shot. And who can forget William Karlsson’s hat trick when the Knights hosted Toronto in 2017?
Jan. 6, vs. New York Rangers — Ryan Reaves is slated to make his first visit to T-Mobile Arena since he was traded this summer for a third-round pick. As long as he’s in the lineup for the Rangers, the popular winger should receive a warm welcome from fans — until he plants a former teammate into the boards. Don’t forget, it’s also the return trip for new Rangers coach Gerard Gallant. It might get a little dusty in there during the video tributes.
Jan. 8, vs. Chicago — If there’s any Kleenex remaining after the Reaves/Gallant return, they will get used up two nights later when Marc-Andre Fleury makes his first appearance at T-Mobile Arena in a Blackhawks uniform. The goaltender probably won’t admit it publicly, but he will be extremely motivated to face his former club after an acrimonious split. And the Knights will be looking forward to facing the reigning Vezina Trophy winner.
March 1, vs. San Jose — The rivals don’t square off until 2022 and only meet three times as part of the new schedule configuration. The Knights have owned the series lately and swept the eight matchups last season by a combined score of 33-14. Many of the key figures from the early days of the rivalry have moved on, and it won’t be the same without Reaves and Evander Kane in each other’s faces. But there’s still plenty of animosity between the clubs.