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Nashville Predators release 09-10 schedule…

The NHL regular season schedule has been released and the Nashville Predators will be opening their 11th season on the road against…

(drum roll please)…

… the Dallas Stars!

And then they get a much needed four day rest (*rolls eyes*) before their second game – but their first at home – against the Colorado Avalanche.

Additionally, the Preds will play four games against each of their other Western Conference opponents and six games against each of their Central Division foes. Both sets will feature half the series on the road and half at home, obviously.

The 24 games in the Central Division is what has fans a little nervous as the Central is supposed to be the toughest division in the NHL. Chicago improved tremendously at the trade deadline by bringing in Marian Hossa and John Madden, the Blues will be better upon Paul Kariya’s return to health, the Blue Jackets locked up the face of their franchise Rick Nash to a long term deal and then, of course, there’s Detroit.

The rest of the Western Conference isn’t exactly a push-over either. The Sedin twins staying in Vancouver didn’t help, the Ducks brought in Saku Koivu along with resigning Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer to give the Ducks one last crack at Lord Stanley and Calgary thinks they’ve found their missing piece with the signing of Jay Bouwmeester.

So yeah… the Western Conference is a place where, if you drop three or four games in a row… you’re in trouble.

The Predators will also face Eastern Conference teams Atlanta, Florida and New Jersey twice each, once home and once away. The Atlanta series makes sense because it’s the closest georgraphical NHL city to Nashville, the Florida series makes sense because who doesn’t want to see Tomas Vokoun’s old club vs. Tomas Vokoun’s new club but the New Jersey series is just… ouch. Facing arguably the best goalie of all-time in Martin Brodeur, in a season where he will surely break the all-time shutout mark, is not our idea of “easy,” but hey, two out of three ain’t bad.

After the home opener against the Avs, the Preds will play three of their next four games at home before embarking on a five game road trip that will take them to Washington, Boston, Ottawa, Chicago and Minnesota, respectfully.

To see the full schedule – and start planning road trips – click here.

We’d also be amiss not to mention that the 2010 NHL Winter Classic will take place in Fenway Park against the Bruins and Flyers. Mark your calendars (and set your TiVo’s and FauxVo’s) for New Years Day because that’s going to be a heck of a game.

Congratulations to the Boston and Philadelphia organizations for being selected to play in the 3rd Winter Classic. Time to start speculating where the 2011 game will be.

We sense a guy named Ovechkin will be involved…