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Starting Lineup & The Bench: Great games sacrificed on altar of NHL lockout

Sam McCaig
Yahoo Sports

The 2012-13 NHL regular season is well past the quarter-pole and approaching the midway point. Or it would be if it wasn’t for, you know, the lockout. We’ve missed out on approximately 500 games already; this week’s Starting Lineup & The Bench takes a look at the most compelling contests that have gone by the wayside.

THE STARTING LINEUP

Opening Night, Oct. 11

Where else to start but at the beginning? The NHL had four games scheduled for the first night of the 2012-13 season: Ottawa at Montreal, Boston at Philadelphia, Vancouver at Calgary and St. Louis at Colorado. An understated introduction, perhaps, but a solid lineup with a couple of all-Canadian contests, revisiting the Bruins-Flyers rivalry and two up-and-comers in the West in the Blues and Avalanche.

New York Rangers at Los Angeles Kings, Oct. 12

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The Kings have been waiting 45 years for their first Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony. (Reuters)

The Kings were set to open at home and, for the first time in the franchise’s 45-year existence, the pregame ceremonies would’ve included the unfurling of a Stanley Cup championship banner. Kings fans will eventually get their chance to celebrate the Cup one more time, but not before last season’s West Coast momentum is stopped dead in its tracks by the lockout. This game also would’ve been Rick Nash’s debut with the Rangers.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers, Oct. 18

The most heated rivalry in the NHL, fresh off of last spring’s first-round playoff showdown. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins up against Claude ‘The Best Player In The World’ Giroux and the rest of a fast, physical Flyers team. Marc-Andre Fleury and Ilya Bryzgalov, perhaps the two most colorful (and hot-and-cold) goalies in the game today. There’s nothing more fun than a Pens-Flyers game. Crosby’s Penguins have also missed out on two games in Washington against Ovechkin’s Capitals (Oct. 31, Dec. 11) and a road game against the Detroit Red Wings, their Cup foe in 2008 and ’09.

Minnesota Wild at New Jersey Devils, Nov. 11/Minnesota at Nashville Predators, Dec. 1

The Wild took a big step forward when it signed free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts last July, and now there’s no going back for Parise and Suter as road games against New Jersey and Nashville have been canceled. Meantime, rather than unveil its two news stars in a season-opening home game against Colorado on Oct. 13, the lockout has forced the Wild and its fans to wait. And wait. And wait.

Nashville Predators at Detroit Red Wings, Oct. 12

This game would’ve marked the start of the post-Suter era in Nashville. And, oh yeah, it also would’ve been the first time the Wings entered a season without Nicklas Lidstrom – who retired last summer – since 1991.

THE BENCH

Anaheim Ducks at Ottawa Senators, Nov. 4: This likely would’ve been the final meeting for 40-something stars Teemu Selanne and Daniel Alfredsson, who went head-to-head in the 2007 Cup final.

Carolina Hurricanes at Winnipeg Jets, Oct. 13: Jordan Staal’s first game alongside brother Eric with the Hurricanes, and the Jets’ second season-opener after missing 15 in a row. Also, Jordan and Eric were supposed to face off against brother Marc and the Rangers on Oct. 26, and Jordan missed his return to Pittsburgh on Nov. 23.

Chicago Blackhawks at Vancouver Canucks, Nov. 15: Two solid teams with several star players and a seething mutual animosity.

Edmonton Oilers at Vancouver Canucks, Oct. 13: The Oilers and all their young stars faced an early litmus test. After opening on the road against league stand-bearer Vancouver, the Oilers would’ve hosted the defending Cup-champion Kings (Oct. 16) and then played three West Coast games in four days against San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles (Oct. 18-21).

Columbus Blue Jackets at Chicago Blackhawks, Oct. 13: The post-Nash era begins for the Jackets. There might be light at the end of the tunnel for Columbus, but the schedule-maker didn’t do them any favors as the Jackets were slated to start on the road against Chicago, then travel to Minnesota and Toronto before home games against Vancouver and Detroit.

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