Don't circle that date

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

Three years to the day he was fired by the Carolina Hurricanes, Paul Maurice will get his first opportunity to extract a pound of flesh.

The Maple Leafs and Stanley Cup champion Hurricanes hook up for the first time in 2006-07 on Dec. 15 in Raleigh, N.C. On that day in 2003, Maurice was let go by the Hurricanes after more than eight years of service.

"I'm not going to circle it," Maurice, hired as Leafs coach in May, said. "I'm going to circle the first game on Oct. 4 and go from there. I'm far more concerned with the games before Dec. 15.

"I'm just really looking forward to getting back. But it doesn't feel like it that was long ago (that he previously coached in an NHL game)."

The regular season opens Oct. 4 and Maurice will get his first taste of the Battle of Ontario immediately. After being dominated last season by the Ottawa Senators, the Leafs will play host to the Sens on opening night and will be in Ottawa for a rematch on Oct. 5.

Two other games will take place when the regular season kicks off. The Hurricanes will raise their Stanley Cup banner in front of the Buffalo Sabres, the club they defeated in the Eastern Conference final; in the other match, the Dallas Stars will visit the Colorado Avalanche.

The Leafs will play another two-game set with the Sens before the end of October. Of their eight games against their provincial rivals, six are in back-to-back sets.

The schedule will conclude April 8 and playoffs will begin April 11. The latest date for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final will be June 11, eight days earlier than this year.

On Dec. 6, the Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers will square off in Alberta in a rematch of the Cup final. The all-star break will be Jan. 21-25, with the game Jan. 23 in Dallas.

General manager John Ferguson said the Leafs would prefer to play their other Canadian rivals and other Original Six teams more often, but understands the league's intent to develop new rivalries across the board.

Other points of interest in the Leafs schedule:

- The Leafs have 13 back-to-back sets, down from 19 last season.

- With the unbalanced schedule, the Leafs will play host to the Northwest Division (Flames, Avalanche, Oilers, Canucks and Wild)and will visit the Central Division (Red Wings, Blackhawks, Blues, Predators and Blue Jackets). The Leafs will not play the Pacific Division (Kings, Sharks, Ducks, Stars, Coyotes).

- The Leafs and Montreal Canadiens will hook up in the Hall of Fame game at the Air Canada Centre Nov. 11.

- The Leafs and Boston Bruins will play consecutive games at the ACC, Nov. 25 and 28.


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