Start the countdown

The Toronto Maple Leafs will open their 2009-10 season by hosting a familiar foe- The Montreal...

The Toronto Maple Leafs will open their 2009-10 season by hosting a familiar foe- The Montreal Canadiens. (Toronto Sun/Ernest Doroszuk)

STAFF

, Last Updated: 7:37 PM ET

There's nothing ordinary about the first four games of the Maple Leafs' 2009-10 NHL season.

Whether they are able to sustain the excitement with a playoff berth -- their first since the 2004 lockout -- will be the challenge.

The Leafs open the 2009-10 season Thursday, Oct. 1, renewing their nearly century-old rivalry against the Montreal Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre.

Then its off to Washington to face the charismatic Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals, followed by a home game against the detestable Ottawa Senators. They close out the second week of the season with a Saturday contest at the ACC against the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

It gets a bit dicey shortly after that. Of the 13 games the Leafs will contest from Oct. 24 to Nov. 19, only four will be on home ice.

Toronto also closes out the season with road games in New York (April 7) and Montreal (April 10), not an ideal situation if the Leafs are still in the playoff hunt.

The regular season, one of the longest in NHL history -- a consequence of the league's participation in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver -- will last 192 days for the Leafs.

The team will be get an 18-day Olympic break, following a Feb. 12 game in St. Louis. They resume play March 2, at home against Carolina.

Toronto's season also includes home and away series against the three Canadian teams in the Western Conference -- Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

The Leafs will play 23 times on Saturdays, 15 of those at the ACC. Tuesday remains their other key home date, with 13 games at the Air Canada Centre .

Teams Toronto fans won't see live in 2009-10 include Chicago , Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Anaheim and Dallas.

General manager Brian Burke leads the Leafs into Anaheim for a game against his old team, the Ducks, Oct. 26.

There's some good news for parents with younger children, or those who simply have to get to bed early.

Only two of the Leafs 82 games will start after 8:30 p.m. -- the one in Anaheim (10 p.m.) and on Dec. 30 in Edmonton (9:30 p.m.).


Videos

Photos