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Starting next season, the NHL will revert back to the system used before the lockout.  Each team will play the other four teams in their division six times (3 home games and 3 road games) and play the other 10 teams in their conference four times (2 home games and 2 road games).  The remaining 18 games will be played against the teams in the other conference.  That ensures that each team will play every other team in the league at least one time during the regular season.

Beginning with the 2005-2006 season, the NHL started using a new schedule structure.  The new system had each team play 2 additional games against the other four teams in their division (four home games, four road games).  They still played four games against the ten teams in the other two divisions in their conference (2 home games and 2 road games).  The remaining 10 games were played against ten teams from the other conference (5 at home against one division, 5 on the road against another division).  Teams did not play the 5 teams in the third division of the other conference.  The interconference matchups rotated every season and after 3 seasons, every team had played every team in the other conference both at home and on the road once.

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ESPN is reporting that the Rangers may host a 2008-2009 regular season game at Yankee Stadium. The rumor is that the opponent would be from the Original Six. My guess is that the league wants the opponent to be the Bruins because of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry and all the great storylines that would accompany the New York vs. Boston matchup.

I think the outdoor games are a great idea, and an annual winter classic makes a lot of sense for the NHL in terms of television contracts and viewership ratings. In my opinion, the most important move for the NHL in the next few seasons will be to get a new contract with a major network for the playoffs (no more Stanley Cup games on Versus please!!!) and to renew their relationship with ESPN. Strong ratings for regular season games will go a long way towards bolstering the credibility of the NHL as a major sport in the U.S.

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