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Tavares to make NHL debut at home against Crosby's Penguins?

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In the clearest sign yet that it really is mid-July in the NHL's news cycle, stories are flowing across the interwebs in anticipation of ... the NHL schedule being released.

Don't get me wrong: as a traveling fan, in a practical way the NHL schedule will affect my plans accordingly. But I can't say even the thought of the schedule itself consumes me a fraction as much as, say, the Bowman Coup in Chicago or the Heatley Whine-Out in Ottawa.

Because the cover on the NHL's Winter Classic at Fenway announcement was blown once, or twice, or three times in the last few months, the latest murmur is of a possible game at Montreal's Exhibition Stadium -- as well as (drumroll please...) ... JOHN TAVARES'S NHL DEBUT. Puck Daddy's Pens expert Sean Leahy already has a column, as does Chris Botta, about the significance of a home opening matchup between "Tavares's Islanders" and "Sidney Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins."

In other news, the Islanders will play 81 other regular season games next season. If we are lucky, few will be as hyped as that first one shall be, in accordance with the prophecies, as we will hear psalm of the torch being passed -- er, shared -- between Crosby and a prospect who is expected to be very good, yet nowhere in the ballpark of the youngest Cup champion captain in league history. Maybe, if we're so graced (we won't be at the opening faceoff, I hope), there will even be an overhead shot of #87 facing off against #91 at center ice.

So everyone's interpretation of Opening Night's significance, or silly scheduling, etc., may very well be right on the money. (In fact, watch me eat these words and hype it like a schoolboy come October.) But now, in mid-summer, all it tells me is that man, we fans sure reach for news to hem and haw about come mid-July. The next 30 days could be rough. [Yeah, soo says the blogger whose very role is to hem and haw about minutia.]

That said ... you got your tickets yet? My itinerary will depend on how I can cram a bunch of games together, like my concerts, within a few days.