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Key Games On The Red Wings' 2011-12 Schedule

The NHL season is now officially less than two months away and that means Red Wings hockey is almost back from the summer hiatus. I thought to help kill the time we could take a brief sneak peek into some of the more notable matchups that are on the agenda.

Oct. 7: This is the Wings' home and season opener against the Ottawa Senators. This will also signal the return of former Detroit assistant coach Paul MacLean, who left the Wings over the summer to take the head coaching job in Ottawa.

Oct. 13: Seven days into Detroit's season they'll host the defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks at Joe Louis Arena.

Oct. 21 and 22: The first divisional matchup of the season takes place when Columbus comes to town. Detroit will then hop on a plane to the nation's capital to play Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals the next night.

Oct. 28: Detroit gets its first rematch of their epic 2011 second-round series with a home game against San Jose.

More after the jump.

Nov. 1-12: The Wings kick off a six-game homestand that starts with Minnesota and ends with Dallas.

Nov. 15-19: Detroit's first West Coast swing will take them through all the California teams (Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles) plus a stop in St. Louis.

Nov. 25: Detroit makes a stop in Boston to visit the defending Stanley Cup champions, the only time the two Original Six squads will meet. Hopefully that will change soon.

Dec. 10: The new-look Winnipeg Jets visit the Joe for the only time. Because the Jets will remain in Atlanta's slot in the Southeast Division, this is the only time the two will meet.

Dec. 13: The Wings head to Pittsburgh for a rematch of the 2008 and 2009 Stanley Cup finals with the Penguins. Unfortunately, the teams have yet to play a rubber match.

Dec. 30 and 31: A pair of division rivalries that sees Detroit play Chicago for the first time all season, which is a little peculiar. The next night the Wings host their annual New Year's Eve game against the Blues.

Jan. 7: Toronto hosts Detroit in the only matchup of the year between the old rivals. Whatever the new NHL alignment is, more Detroit-Toronto is needed.

Jan. 10: Could this be the Wings' last visit to Long Island? A proposal for a new Islanders arena recently failed and with the Barclays Center set to open its doors in Brooklyn next summer it could mean another relocation is in the near future.

Jan. 25: Another rare Original Six matchup, this time on the road against the Montreal Canadiens. You already know how I feel about the current Original Six games ratio for the Red Wings. Moving on.

Feb. 8-19: Another big six-game homestand that includes the Flyers and Sharks.

March 10-17: The last West Coast swing of the season includes dates against the Kings, Ducks and Sharks. The trip will start in Nashville, which could be key in deciding the division.

March 19-30: There are no long road trips or homestands in this stretch, but it's likely to be a vital string of games. Detroit will play host to the Capitals on the 19th and then travel to the Big Apple on the 21st to play the last of the Eastern Conference Original Six teams, the Rangers. Detroit gets three divisional games to cap off the month: a home-and-home with Columbus and a home game against Nashville. After this point there are only two divisional games left, leaving a pretty good indication of who has the edge heading into April.

April 5: New Jersey comes to Detroit for a rematch of the 1995 Stanley Cup final.

April 7: Chicago visits the Joe to close out the Red Wings' regular season.