Sabres fans, get ready to roll out the welcome mat for a local boy and a few old friends.
Buffalo opens the 2009-10 NHL season at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3 against former Sabre Jaroslav Spacek and the Montreal Canadiens. An unrestricted free agent after last season, Spacek signed a three-year deal last month with Montreal.
The Sabres won last year’s season opener in a shootout over Montreal.
The NHL unveiled its complete regular-season schedule Wednesday in conjunction with its announcement that the Boston Bruins will host the Philadelphia Flyers in the Winter Classic outdoor game Jan. 1 at Fenway Park.
Buffalo will play five of its first six games at HSBC Arena. All Friday night home games will start at 7:30 p.m., with all others starting at 7.
South Buffalo native Patrick Kane will come back to Buffalo when the Chicago Blackhawks visit Dec. 11, along with former Sabres blue-liner Brian Campbell.
Campbell, who signed with Chicago last summer, hasn’t played in Buffalo since the Sabres traded him to San Jose in February 2007.
The first of six battles against cross-border rival Toronto will be Oct. 30 in Buffalo, with remaining home games against the Maple Leafs slated for Dec. 18 and Jan. 8. Toronto’s Air Canada Centre will host the other three matchups Nov. 30, Dec. 31 and April 1.
Buffalo battles Sidney Crosby and the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins twice at HSBC Arena — Dec. 19 and 29.
Fans will get to see reigning MVP Alexander Ovechkin when the Washington Capitals come to town Dec. 9 and March 3.
The league will take a break from Feb. 15-28 for the 2010 Olympics.
The Sabres will pack their suitcases for a seven-game, 12-day road trip, their longest since the 2005-06 campaign, beginning Jan. 14 in Atlanta and wrapping up Jan. 25 in Vancouver. They hit the road again for a five-game stretch March 13 to 21.
John Tavares, the league’s No. 1 overall draft pick, will come to town with the New York Islanders on Oct. 16 and Nov. 4. Tavares is the nephew of Buffalo Bandits lacrosse great John Tavares.
The 82-game schedule features the same breakdown as last year, with each team playing its divisional opponents six teams, plus four games against each non-divisional conference opponent.
There also will be one game against each of the 15 non-conference foes and three “at-large” contests against Western Conference opponents Detroit, San Jose and Phoenix.
Buffalo’s home finale is April 6 against the New York Rangers, who will be led by ex-Sabres Chris Drury and Alex Kotalik. They finish the regular season April 11 at New Jersey.