Oct. 12 (UPI) -- The reigning champion Tampa Bay Lighting host the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Seattle Kraken face the Vegas Golden Knights in two hockey matchups Tuesday, opening the 2021-22 NHL season.
"Going against the guys who won last year is always a challenge," Penguins forward Kasperi Kapanen told reporters Monday.
"We play these guys right off the bat. We are going down there to win two games. That could be a huge advantage for us."
Each of the NHL's 32 teams returns to a standard 82-game regular season for the first time since 2018-19. The last two NHL seasons were shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Lightning are among the favorites to win another crown. They host the Penguins in the first game of the new campaign at 7:30 p.m. EDT on ESPN.
"We've really hit a threshold with this team," Lightning coach Jon Cooper told reporters Monday. "It's all business. These guys really know what they are doing. Has our identity changed or will it change? No."
The NHL's newest franchise, the Kraken, play their first regular-season game in history against the Golden Knights at 10 p.m. on the same network.
The season continues with five games Wednesday and nine on Thursday. An additional 18 games are scheduled from Friday through Sunday. Every NHL teams plays Saturday.
The Colorado Avalanche, the Stanley Cup favorites, face the Chicago Blackhawks in their first game at 10 p.m. Wednesday on TNT.
The Golden Knights, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins are among the other Stanley Cup favorites.
Last season, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid led the league with 72 assists and 105 points and won the Hart Memorial Trophy. He is the favorite to win the league's MVP trophy again in 2021-22.
Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Lighting winger Nikita Kucherov, New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin, Bruins winger Brad Marchand, Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov, Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin are among the other players expected to compete for the Hart Trophy.
Unlike last season, Canada-based teams will face U.S. teams during the 2021-22 regular season. Teams also will play against other divisions. Strict travel restrictions at the Canadian border last season prevented such matchups.
The league also will stop play for three weeks in February to allow its stars to play in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are planned for April through June.
NHL openers (in EDT)
Penguins at Lightning at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
Kraken at Golden Knights at 10 p.m. on ESPN
Canadiens at Maple Leafs at 7 p.m. on Sportsnet
Rangers at Capitals at 7:30 p.m. on TNT
Jets at Ducks at 10 p.m. on Sportsnet 360
Blackhawks at Avalanche at 10 p.m. on TNT
Canucks at Oilers at 10 p.m. on Sportsnet
Canadiens at Sabres at 7 p.m. on MSG-B
Maple Leafs at Senators at 7 p.m. on TSN5
Penguins at Panthers at 7 p.m. on Sportsnet 360/Bally Sports Florida
Stars at Rangers at 7 p.m. on MSG
Islanders at Hurricanes at 7 p.m. on MSG+/Bally Sports South
Coyotes at Blue Jackets at 7 p.m. on Bally Sports Ohio
Lightning at Red Wings at 7:30 p.m. on Bally Sports Sun
Kraken at Predators at 8 p.m. on NHL Network
Golden Knights at Kings at 10:30 p.m. on Bally Sports West
Blackhawks at Devils at 7 p.m. on NHL Network
Canucks at Flyers at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports
Wild at Ducks at 10 p.m. on ESPN+
Coyotes at Sabres at 1 p.m. on NHL Network
Islanders at Panthers at 6 p.m. on Bally Sports Florida/MSG+
Stars at Bruins at 7 p.m. on NESN/Bally Sports South West
Senators at Maple Leafs at 7 p.m. on CBC
Rangers at Canadiens at 7 p.m. on MSG
Canucks at Red Wings at 7 p.m. on SNP
Blackhawks at Penguins at 7 p.m. on NHL Network
Lighting at Capitals at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington/Bally Sports Sun
Kraken at Blue Jackets at 7 p.m. on Bally Sports Ohio
Hurricanes at Predators at 8 p.m. on Bally Sports South
Blues at Avalanche at 9 p.m. on Ball Sports Midwest
Jets at Sharks at 10 p.m. on SNW
Flames at Oilers at 10 p.m. on CBC
Wild at Kings at 10:30 p.m. on Bally Sports West