The NHL unveiled its national television schedule on Wednesday, and the Bruins’ popularity across North America once again will lead to plenty of exposure for the club on the league’s network partners.
But fans in New England will still have a leg up on viewers elsewhere in the nation, as NESN has exclusive rights to broadcast virtually all of this year’s must-see action.
Here’s a rundown on the top 10 can’t-miss games this season on NESN.
1. European Vacation
The Bruins open the season with an excursion to Prague, marking the club’s first venture to Europe in over 50 years. The Bruins and Rangers barnstormed through the continent after the 1958-59 season, but this year’s games will count in the standings as the Bruins take on Phoenix on Saturday, Oct. 9 (noon ET) and Sunday, Oct. 10 (10 a.m.).
2. Home Sweet Home
After their trip across the pond and games in New Jersey and Washington back in North America, the Bruins finally get to skate at the Garden in their home opener on Thursday, Oct. 21. It won’t be an easy task for the B’s, as Alex Ovechkin and last year’s Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals bring their high-flying offense to the Hub.
3. Cooke-ing Up Something Special
The first games many Bruins fans circled on their calendars once the schedule was released were the rematches with Matt Cooke and the Penguins. Cooke’s name will live in infamy in Boston after his brutal cheap shot on Marc Savard last March. Shawn Thornton took Cooke down in a quick scrap in the following meeting, but there was little else to celebrate as Pittsburgh blanked Boston 3-0. The Bruins will try to exact a more complete revenge this season, and both the first clash between the clubs this year in Pittsburgh on Nov. 10 (which also will mark the Bruins' first trip to the Penguins’ new arena) and the first matchup of the season at the Garden on Jan. 15 will be on NESN exclusively.
4. Bad Hab-its
It’s always special when the Bruins and Canadiens get together to renew one of the most storied rivalries in sports. This year, NESN will have complete coverage of the next chapter of the rivalry, beginning with Montreal’s first trip to the Garden on Nov. 11.
5. Holiday Hostilities
Christmas comes early for the Bruins, who get two shots at redemption against the Flyers early in December. The clubs will clash for the first time since Philadelphia completed a stunning comeback from 3-0 down in the second round of the playoffs last spring when the Bruins head to Philly on Dec. 1. Then the Flyers will return to the Garden on Dec. 11.
6. Rookie Showdown
The Taylor vs. Tyler debate will take center stage when the top two picks in the 2010 draft face each other as pros for the first time on Feb. 27, as Taylor Hall and the Oilers welcome Tyler Seguin and the Bruins to Edmonton for the clubs’ only meeting of the season.
7. Returning to the Scene of the Crime
The trade of Joe Thornton to the Sharks in 2005 was one of the all-time thefts in NHL history. Jumbo Joe has returned to Boston just twice since then, but he’ll be back for a third time on Feb. 5 when the Bruins host San Jose. Hopefully, Thornton can stick around a little longer then he did in his first less-than-triumphant return, when he was tossed in the opening minutes for a hit from behind on Hal Gill.
8. Familiar Faces from Florida
New Bruins Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell spent their entire career in Florida before being dealt to Boston in June. They’ll get to catch up with old friends when the play against the Panthers for the first time at the Garden on Nov. 18, then make their first trip back to Florida on Nov. 24.
9. Detroit Doubleheader
The old-fashioned home-and-home has sadly become a rarity in the 30-team NHL, especially between interconference foes. But the Bruins get to double their pleasure against their old Original Six rival Detroit this February, and NESN will have the opening act on Friday, Feb. 11, at the Garden before the scene shifts to Motown for the rematch on Sunday, Feb.13.
10. Fitting Finale
NESN wraps up its regular-season coverage with the final game at the Garden on April 9. Fittingly, the opponent that day will be Ottawa. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will get in one more game against his old club before he could potentially hit the market as a free agent again, since the deal he signed in Boston after leaving the Senators expires at the end of this season.