Bruins Ready to Run Regular-Season Gauntlet

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Bruins Ready to Run Regular-Season Gauntlet The NHL has released the full 2009-2010 schedule. Only 77 days until the Bruins open the regular season.

Let’s bust out the crystal ball.

Oct. 1 vs. Capitals: After spending hundreds of summer hours perfecting a new goal celebration, Alex Ovechkin must wait to add to his highlight reel. Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara and Co. haven’t forgotten how to play defense and throw a bucket of ice water on the Russian. Boston’s 85th season begins on the right foot.

Oct. 3 vs. Hurricanes: Scott Walker, meet Milan Lucic. Remember what Looch did to Michael Komisarek? That’s nothing compared to the pummeling he will give Walker.

Oct. 8 vs. Ducks: Who needs Emilio Estevez? Rod Carlyle knows what he’s doing behind the Anaheim bench.

Oct. 10 vs. Islanders: The Isles have become the laughingstock of the league, but there’s no truth to the rumors they are considering joining the AHL.

Oct. 12 vs. Avalanche: Colorado has nowhere to go but up after finishing last in the Western Conference with 69 points a season ago. Don’t expect any miracles.

Oct. 16 at Stars: Defense wins championships. Lack of defense watches championships won on TV. Dallas learned this lesson the hard way with a 3.06 goals-against average (25th in the NHL) in 2008-09. Adding Alex Auld to back up Marty Turco could help.

Oct. 17 at Coyotes: Anyone want to buy an NHL franchise? The league wants to keep the Coyotes in Arizona, but they could be calling Hamilton, Ontario, home.

Oct. 21 vs. Predators: Having a hockey team in Nashville makes as much sense as having a sushi joint in West Virginia. Maybe that’s why the Predators draw better on the road.

Oct. 22 at Flyers: Now that the Phillies have ended Philadelphia’s championship drought, the Flyers are looking to catch the wave of success. The addition of Chris Pronger doesn’t hurt the cause.

Oct. 24 at Senators: Staying or going? Dany Heatley might still be asking himself this question in late October.

Oct. 29 vs. Devils: He’s back. New Jersey is hoping Jacques Lemaire recaptures the magic that led the team to its first Stanley Cup title in 1995.

Oct. 31 vs. Oilers: Happy Halloween. The first 10,000 fans at the TD Garden get Michael Myers masks. By the end of the night, the Oilers are looking to cover their faces.

Nov. 1 at Rangers: Nothing beats an Original Six rivalry — especially when Sean Avery is in the building wearing a blue sweater.

Nov. 3 at Red Wings: Playing the Wings is no fun these days. They still haven’t gotten over Game 7 against the Penguins and are treating every opponent like they insulted the mother of every person in the organization.

Nov. 5 vs. Canadiens: Montreal used to own Boston on the ice. Not anymore.

Nov. 7 vs. Sabres: Buffalo just missed making the playoffs in April. Something tells us Steve Montador isn’t the piece that will put them over the top.

Nov. 10 vs. Penguins: The bowl of the Stanley Cup is 7 1/2 inches with a circumference of almost three feet. That can hold a lot of adult beverages. Maybe that’s why the Pens are playing like they’re buzzed.

Nov. 12 vs. Panthers: Florida hasn’t been to the postseason since 2000. This could be the year the Panthers snap that streak.

Nov. 14 at Penguins: Don’t ask Pittsburgh fans to walk a straight line or recite the alphabet backward — they’re still partying with the Cup. The Bruins remind Sidney Crosby and his pals that this isn’t June.

Nov. 16 vs. Islanders: If the object of the game were to allow more goals than you score, the Islanders would be peerless.

Nov. 19 at Thrashers: Looking for the worst team in the NHL? Look no further.

Nov. 20 at Sabres: The HSBC Arena is still a tough place to play for visitors.

Nov. 23 at Blues: President Barack Obama will not be dropping the puck. Neither will Sarah Palin.

Nov. 25 at Wild: St. Paul used to feel like the red-headed stepchild of Minneapolis until the Wild came to town. Not even mediocrity on the ice can diminish St. Paul’s pride.

Nov. 27 vs. Devils: Fan of the high-scoring, free-flowing game? This isn’t the ticket.

Nov. 28 vs. Senators: Alexei Kovalev might have changed uniforms, but he’s still as dislikeable as he was on the Canadiens.

Dec. 2 vs. Lightning: Tampa Bay could use a dose of Barry Melrose right about now.

Dec. 4 at Canadiens: The Habs have more new faces than a Beverly Hills Nieman Marcus. But the Bruins treat them just the same as they did Montreal’s old guard.

Dec. 5 vs. Maple Leafs: Toronto has a proud history. It was hard to tell after last season’s debacle.

Dec. 10 vs. Maple Leafs: The Leafs opened the checkbook in free agency, but $40-plus million doesn’t go as far as it used to.

Dec. 12 at Islanders: John Tavares was the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft for good reason. The 19-year-old center — who broke Wayne Gretky‘s Canadian Hockey League record for goals in a season with 72 in 2007 — has visions of bringing the Cup back to Long Island. Nobody has the heart to tell him to stop dreaming, so the Bruins do the honorable thing and show him how far away the Isles are.

Dec. 14 vs. Flyers: Ray Emery appears to be a changed man after a year of exile in Russia. All those GMs who passed on him are kicking themselves now.

Dec. 18 at Blackhawks: Former Hawks GM Dale Tallon is such a class act that he’s still rooting for Chicago to win. Stan Bowman is finding that’s easier said than done.

Dec. 19 at Maple Leafs: Tired of getting their lunch handed to them by the Bruins, the Leafs call on Tie Domi. The enforcer still has plenty of fight, but it’s not enough to take down the Black and Gold.

Dec. 21 at Senators: Ottawa in late December? A win has a way of warming the spirit.

Dec. 23 vs. Thrashers: Christmas comes early with the Thrashers in Boston.

Dec. 27 at Panthers: The Bruins will have to wait to play with all their new toys. This Florida team is no joke.

Dec. 28 at Lightning: It’s doesn’t matter if the Lightning play at home or on the road. They stink all the same.

Dec. 30 vs. Thrashers: The schedule makers sure didn’t want Atlanta to have a happy holiday season.

Jan. 1 vs. Flyers: Don’t overdo it on New Year’s Eve. The Winter Classic at Fenway will be one for the ages.

Jan. 4 at Rangers: The Rangers fall to last in the NHL in defense at the halfway point of the season. That’s not going to get it done.

Jan. 5 at Senators: Daniel Alfredsson might be 37, but he still plays like a hungry 27-year-old.

Jan. 7 vs. Blackhawks: Marian Hossa is turning out to be a $63 million bargain.

Jan. 9 vs. Rangers: The hardest thing for an athlete to do is call it a career. Look at Brendan Shanahan, whose comeback decision hasn’t gone according to plan. His veteran presence has helped New York in the locker room, but the 40-something winger’s been a shell of himself on the ice.

Jan. 13 at Ducks: The Bruins arrive a day early in Southern California to visit Disneyland. So they can get some practice.

Jan. 14 at Sharks: Joe Thornton might still be a legend in some Boston parts, but the Mike O’Connell trade laid the groundwork for the Bruins to rebuild.

Jan. 16 at Kings: The West Coast trip came a little later than usual this year. Some Bostonians detest everything about Los Angeles, but L.A.’s January weather is hard to hate.

Jan. 18 vs. Senators: Beware of Ottawa’s power play.

Jan. 21 vs. Blue Jackets: Character has never been a problem with the Blue Jackets. It still isn’t. Columbus remains a gritty club.

Jan. 23 vs. Senators: Kovalev has given a boost to Ottawa’s offense, but the team’s defense makes a sieve look like a steel vault.

Jan. 24 at Hurricanes: The Bruins take their first trip to the RBC Center since the postseason. The Canes’ home is known as one of the loudest barns in the game, but once the B’s get to work, it sounds like Mass during communion.

Jan. 29 at Sabres: Forget about shooting T-shirts into the stands. The Sabres’ promotions staff has enlisted Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi for a wings-eating contest to stir up the fans. It backfires as Boston steamrolls Buffalo.

Jan. 30 vs. Kings: The Kings had 24 players under the age of 30 on their roster last season. While the team has great potential, it still is prone to some careless and sloppy play.

Feb. 2 vs. Capitals: Veteran center Brendan Morrison has been a steadying influence on the Caps, and made them better.

Feb. 4 vs. Canadiens: As the old saying goes, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. This isn’t that “while” for the Canadiens.

Feb. 6 vs. Canucks: Mattias Ohlund took the money and ran to Tampa Bay. But the Sedin brothers are back, and Roberto Luongo remains in net. Nevertheless, the Canucks seem a few pieces short of the Cup puzzle.

Feb. 7 at Canadiens: Montreal is beautiful this time of year. The Habs, not so much.

Feb. 9 at Sabres: Thomas Vanek continues to have no trouble finding the back of the net. For the fourth straight year, he is closing in on the 35-goal plateau.

Feb. 11 at Lightning: The more things change, the more Martin St. Louis averages 80 points a season.

Feb. 13 at Panthers: Florida doesn’t look like it will need a miracle finish to make the playoffs.

Enjoy the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

March 2 vs. Canadiens: It’s too soon to write off Casey Price, but the chances of him becoming the next Patrick Roy are about as good as Wally the Green Monster becoming the next Ted Williams.

March 4 vs. Maple Leafs: The Leafs have won 13 Stanley Cups. This isn’t the year they get No. 14.

March 6 at Islanders: Give the Isles credit. They could have thrown in the towel, but they continue to compete.

March 7 at Penguins: Once the hangover wore off, the Penguins returned to championship form. Now they are gearing up for a title defense.

March 9 at Maple Leafs: Toronto is still in the playoff hunt — also known as the save-RonWilson’s-job campaign — but the team has little room for error.

March 11 at Flyers: The Broad Street Bullies are well on their way to leading the NHL in penalty minutes for the second straight season.

March 13 at Canadiens: After all these years, the Hatfields and McCoys still have nothing on the Bruins and Canadiens. Working up a rabid froth is a piece of cake when you play a team six times a season.

March 15 at Devils: Success is the best revenge. Claude Julien will never admit it, but beating the Devils — and old boss Lou Lamoriello — means a little bit more.

March 16 at Hurricanes: The special of the day is pain, and the Bruins are serving an extra helping to the Canes.

March 18 vs. Penguins: Pittsburgh has what Boston wants, and the Black and Gold are ready to take it.

March 21 vs. Rangers: The Rangers took a risk by inking Marian Gaborik to a five-year, $37.5 million deal — and he’s proving them right. Who needs defense?

March 23 at Thrashers: The NHL regular season is the toughest grind in sports. It might be 80 less games than the MLB regular season, but it is 10 times as exhausting and 100 times as violent.

March 25 vs. Lightning: Now is when playoff teams start scouting first-round opponents and non-playoff teams start thinking about that trip to Turks and Caicos.

March 27 vs. Flames: Calgary’s blue line is one of the best in the business after adding Jay Bouwmeester to the mix with Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf and Cory Sarich.

March 29 vs. Sabres: There are no sure things in life or sports, but a Bruins win at the Garden comes close.

March 30 at Devils: Coasting down the stretch? Think again. This is the Bruins’ ninth road game in March and 16th game overall in the month — their most in a month all season.

April 1 vs. Panthers: The Bear makes an appearance and decrees a new Bruins rule — bad dancing in the stands is good for morale on the ice. Even though it’s April Fools’ Day, he’s serious.

April 3 at Maple Leafs: This will be the Bruins’ last trip north of the border unless they face the Canadiens in the second season. We believe in poetic justice.

April 5 at Capitals: Playing tough games in early April is better than a soft schedule before the Cup drive begins.

April 8 vs. Sabres: Another battle with Buffalo. This is déjà vu all over again.

April 10 vs. Hurricanes: The Bruins keep putting on the hits. The Hurricanes are going to be paying for their Game 7 win in Boston for a long, long time.

April 11 at Capitals: Boston closes out the regular season the way they started it — beating Washington. The B’s don’t finish 82-0, but finishing on top of the East again is commendable. It’s only the beginning.

Next stop, the playoffs. Is this the year of the Bruins? Thirty-eight years of waiting is long enough.

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