NHL Returns Saturday; Stars' First Game Monday Against Vegas

Playoffs begin in two Canadian host cities after a long break because of the COVID-19 pandemic

The Dallas Stars face-off against the Nashville Predators in an exhibition game prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on July 30, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The NHL returns to the ice Saturday with 24 teams spread out across two host cities. Eastern Conferences teams are in Toronto, while the Dallas Stars and other Western Conference teams are in Edmonton.

“You know whatever happened those 69 games (before play was stopped by the pandemic), you put that behind you,” Dallas Stars interim head coach Rick Bowness said.

Friday morning on the Today Show, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sounded encouraged by how life in the NHL bubble was going so far.

“The players are being tested every day in the bubble as are all the other personnel in the bubble and all the tests have been negative,” Bettma said.

The Stars had their first chance to play in front of empty seats in an exhibition game against Nashville on Thursday.

“It was different to start but you kind of get used to it and you really block out everything around you,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said.

It always takes a lot to win a Stanley Cup. Maybe it's more challenging now more than ever.

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“Maybe this is going to be more special than a regular Stanley Cup," said former NHL player and current NBC Sports hockey analyst Patrick Sharp. "I mean these guys are in a pretty unique situation. They’re kind of tucked away in a bubble. You can’t go anywhere. They only have each other for the next couple of months for the two teams that get to go to the Stanley Cup Final. I think in a lot of ways, it’s going to bring teams closer together.”

The NHL returns Sunday with two games on NBC 5. The Chicago Blackhawks take on the Edmonton Oilers at 2 p.m., while the Montreal Canadiens play the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7 p.m.

The Stars' first game is Monday at 5:30 p.m. against the Vegas Golden Knights.

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