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NHL season begins tonight

By Greg Holden

The puck drops on a new NHL season tonight in Montreal as the Canadiens host the Maple Leafs at 7 p.m.

The Leafs posted a 26-17-5 record last year and made the playoffs for the first time since 2004, before bowing out in a first round playoff matchup against Boston. The Leafs blew a 4-1 third period lead in game 7 of that series in what would have been a huge upset victory.

The Leafs made two off-season trades shortly after the season was over. One day after the cup was won by Chicago, they acquired goaltender Jonathan Bernier from the LA Kings for prospect goalie Ben Scrivens, forward Matt Frattin and a 2nd round draft pick. Then, less than a week later, Leaf GM Dave Nonis traded a 2nd round pick and two 4th round picks (one of them for the draft next season) for centre Dave Bolland of the Blackhawks. Both players are expected to add depth to positions rather than lead the team.

The Leafs Phil Kessel will be starting the season with new $8 million contract according to the Canadian Press, who are reporting the winger signed an 8 year contract extension worth $64 million. Kessel also has a limited no-trade clause in his deal.

The Habs are also coming off an improved year, winning the Northeast division with a 29-14-5 record during the lockout shortened season. Also first round victims in the playoffs, the Canadiens lost to Ottawa in a disappointing 5 games. Goalie Carey Price is looking to rebound this year after watching his save percentage drop to .905, the worst of his career. Montreal is looking for former Sarnia Sting forward Alex Galchenyuk to have a breakout year and they will rely on defenceman P.K. Subban to continue where he left off last season when he won the Norris Trophy.

The NHL has a redesigned format that sees the Leafs and Canadiens in the new Atlantic Division. The Atlantic also includes the Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers.

At 8 p.m. the puck drops in Chicago where the Blackhawks play the Washington Capitols and at 10 p.m. Winnipeg faces Edmonton.

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