Top things to know: 2013-14 NHL Season

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Chicago looks to be the 1st repeat Stanley Cup winner since Detroit in 1996-97 & 1997-98.The 2013-14 NHL season begins tonight with three games, including the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks raising their Stanley Cup banner before taking on the Washington Capitals.

Before it starts, we take a look at six storylines as we head into the new season.

1. In addition to playing a full season after a lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, the NHL has a new divisional alignment this season.

The NHL attempted to group its teams better geographically, moving the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets into the Eastern Conference while shifting the Winnipeg Jets to the Western Conference. That gives the East (16 teams) more teams than the West (14 teams) for the time being.

The league also went from three divisions in each conference to just two (two eight-team divisions in the East and two seven-team divisions in the West).

2. The 2013-14 season also features a new playoff format, which is primarily division-based. The top three teams in each division will automatically qualify while the last two spots in each conference will then be “Wild Card” spots, going to the next two teams with the highest point totals regardless of division.

Schedule Of Outdoor Games
2013-14 NHL Season

3. The NHL is increasing its outdoor presence this year. Six outdoor games are on the schedule, including the traditional New Year’s Day Winter Classic (Detroit hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium).

In addition, there will be two outdoor games at Yankee Stadium involving the Metro New York teams, and one outdoor game each in Los Angeles, Chicago and Vancouver.

4. There will be no All-Star Game for the second straight season as the NHL instead goes on hiatus from February 9-25 as its players will take part in the men’s hockey competition at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

5. Notable rule changes for 2013-14 include that a player cannot remove his helmet to take part in a fight (though the preseason saw players remove each other’s helmets in fights on a number of occasions) and new rules to restrict and reduce the size of goaltenders’ leg pads.

6. As they switch conferences from the West to the East, the Red Wings will try to extend their streak of 22 consecutive postseason appearances, the longest active streak of its kind in the four major professional sports (the next-longest active streak is 16 by the San Antonio Spurs).

Detroit moves into an Atlantic Division that features four playoff teams from a year ago – Boston, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.