Opening night of the 2013-14 NHL season is upon us. A full 82-game battle to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs lies ahead but each club will still be anxious to get off to a positive start.
Bell Centre hosts the evening's first offering, an all-Canadian ding-dong between the home town Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Canadiens have to shrug off their first round playoff exit and look forward - a major bonus is having dynamic defenceman PK Subban available from the off.
Unfortunately for Toronto their major free agency signing David Clarkson misses 10 games for clearing the bench to defend Phil Kessel in an exhibition meeting with Buffalo last week. His absence is not too damaging though and as the Leafs won both on both visits to their rivals last year they look to be the most likely road winners of the three today, look out for a few goals too.
Defending champions Chicago Blackhawks are also in action and will be raising a banner to the rafters before the puck drops against Washington. Just as they did after their success in 2010, the Hawks have kept their extremely strong core intact but allowed some depth players to move on. Because of that continuity through the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith it's easy to install Chicago as favourites from the West this season. Take the Blackhawks to put on a strong showing with a -1.5 handicap at 2.60.
It's back north of the border for the final matchup of the night, there's optimism in Edmonton to see the Oilers return to the postseason for the first time since 2006. Winnipeg will be in town and I like the subtle changes the Jets have made to their line-up, adding more depth to their forward lines in Devin Setoguchi and Michael Frolik.
Edmonton's roster is even more stacked with bright offensive talent though and looks primed to dominate at some point in the future, it may well come together for them this time around. Right wing Jordan Eberle has been red hot through the warm up games and although that's not always the greatest indicator, he is great value to score. Back the Oilers to get it done at 2.10.
Best Bet: Toronto Maple Leafs to win including overtime at 2.12.