Mike Smith and Cam Talbot drop the gloves

The NHL is giving viewers a treat this summer. It’s been over 120 days since we last saw professional games. The league has announced that all 24 teams who are playing in the qualifying rounds and playoff rounds of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will get to play one exhibition game before the 24-team Return-To-Play format officially gets underway.

The NHL is taking a regional approach to the 12 exhibition games taking place in late-July. There is bad blood in the majority of these matchups, especially in the Battle of Pennsylvania and the Battle of Alberta. Here’s the full schedule of exhibition games taking place this summer, courtesy of the NHL Public Relations.

The Flames and Oilers games were must-watch television this season, with agitators Matthew Tkachuk and Zack Kassian developing one of the best rivalries in the game. A matchup between the two clubs in February escalated to the point of a goalie fight between Calgary netminder Cam Talbot and Edmonton goalie Mike Smith.

We haven’t seen it as much in recent years, but the rivalry between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh is only a few years removed from being one of the nastiest ones in the NHL. Captains Claude Giroux and Sidney Crosby facing off rarely disappoints.

You also don’t want to forget what is developing between the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes. The two teams played an epic seven-game first-round playoff series in 2019 that featured Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin knocking out Hurricanes’ rising star Andrei Svechnikov.

It’s certainly fun to get excited about these matchups, but realistically, it’s probably best to lower your expectations. No player wants to get injured before the actual tournament begins. I’d assume that several prominent star players may sit the exhibition game out to prevent any potential injury. That doesn’t mean we won’t see bad blood between the teams as they return to game action hungry for victory.

If the NHL is hoping to quickly shake off the rust of their players after such a long layoff, having these heated matchups in the exhibition round is certainly one way to do it.