Philadelphia Flyers: January 30
Hiller vs. Emery? Hiller vs. Mason? Fasth vs. Emery? Fasth vs. Mason? The Flyers spin their goalie carousel faster than any team in the league, and because they missed the playoffs last year, their goalie situation is all anyone ever seems to talk about. Will veteran additions Vincent Lecavalier and Mark Streit provide enough of a boost to push Philly into the promised land? I frankly don't care. As long as they lose on January 30 (and October 29, when they host the Ducks), I'm happy.
Columbus Blue Jackets: February 3
Here's a team that I'd really like to see make the playoffs. I thought they were going to during the last coupled days of last season, but, well, add that to the list of grievances against the Red Wings. Now that they're in the East, I'm even more inclined to root for them, if for no other purpose than to prove to eastern fans and media that a middling team in the West is a good team in the East. But don't get me started on that. The Blue Jackets of last year surprised everyone, myself included, by managing to play some pretty good hockey, and then they grabbed Marian Gaborik before the deadline and Nathan Horton during the offseason. These aren't your daddy's Blue Jackets, no sir.
Carolina Hurricanes: March 2
What's the story here? Something about the Staal brothers? Elias Lindholm not being related to Hampus Lindholm? Will Cam Ward ever be good again? This is a team that has pretty much no connection to the Ducks, so when March 2 roles around, two points will be on the line, and not a lot more. This game will mark the beginning of a four-game stretch in which the Ducks will host four Eastern Conference opponents in a row. Which doesn't matter at all. So let's move on.
Montreal Canadiens: March 5
The last team ever to win the Northeast Division (barring another realignment that re-institutes the Northeast), the Habs figure to be about as good this season as they were last season. P.K. Subban is the reigning Norris Trophy winner (shoulda been Ryan Suter), Danny Briere decided to play in his home province, and Andrei Markov is as good as anyone on the power play. 2007 Stanley Cup champions Travis Moen and George Parros aren't the Habs' gamebreakers, but hopefully they will both suit up on March 5. Parros has yet to play in Anaheim since leaving the team a year ago, and you can bet your tickets that he'll receive a standing ovation. If Brad Staubitz plays a single game this season, I want it to be this one, and I want him on the ice whenever Parros is. And I think we all know who we'd want to win that fight.
Pittsburgh Penguins: March 7
If any regular season victory could bring the Ducks to the national hockey media's attention, even if only for a night, it would be this one. The Penguins own the spotlight, and the only way to wrest it from them for even a moment is to beat them. This is one of those rare chances Ryan Getzlaf gets to show the world how he matches up against Sidney Crosby, and I'm hoping he does more than just make Crosby look immature — although that was fun too. Of course, this game will also remind us of one of the worst trades in franchise history, but we'll cheer for Chris Kunitz nonetheless. It wasn't his fault, after all.
Toronto Maple Leafs: March 10
Bobby Ryan, George Parros, and now Randy Carlyle will all return to Honda Center for the first time since their respective departures from the Ducks organization, and I am interested in seeing how our crowd will react to this last one. Every time PA announcer Phil Hulett introduces the coaching staff at the start of a game, the crowd is pretty quiet, as if nobody cares who's managing the team that they root for. Carlyle is, of course, a polarizing figure among Ducks fans, but since he was behind the bench on that day of days, June 6, 2007, he absolutely deserves a video tribute on the jumbotron, and the ovation that comes with it. As for Joffrey Lupul, Troy Bodie, and Jake Gardiner? Maybe a sign or two from someone in the nosebleeds.
And speaking of head coaches matching up against their former teams . . .
Washington Capitals: March 18
On December 23, the Ducks will play in Washington, and Bruce Boudreau will get the chance to beat the team that fired him. In fairness, that game will be more emotionally important than the one at Honda Center, just because Boudreau will be greeted by an entire arena full of his former fans. But March 18 will still be the one opportunity for Ducks fans to see Alex Ovechkin and Co. try to take down their former coach. Two teams whose fans wish they had a bona fide second line center going at it, should be fun. Maybe they'll film a GEICO commercial. Why is it that all NHL GEICO commercials are about the Caps? Anyone ever figure that out?
Florida Panthers: March 23
Let's be honest, we don't care about the Panthers at all. They don't have any former Ducks on their roster, and if any team is a lock to miss the playoff this season, it's . . . well, it's probably the Calgary Flames. But I wouldn't want to be a Panthers fan this year either. Yes, Jonathan Huberdeau is an exciting young player. But this game will only be important because it comes about three weeks before the end of the regular season, and we all know what two points can mean that time of year.