Winnipeg Jets to kick off shortened season against Flames in January

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WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets will open their shortened 56 game season on Jan. 14 against the Calgary Flames, the NHL announced Wednesday, kicking off the most unique season in league history.

This will mark the first, and likely only time, all Canadian teams will play in the same division, labelled the North Division. The league is temporarily realigning its divisions to help alleviate travel concerns while under a global pandemic.

There will be no inter-divisional play this season, and while the league hopes to have its teams play home games at their home arenas, an all-Canadian schedule does not necessarily mean these games will all be played in Canada, as it continues to work with all levels of government for clearance to play.

The Jets and Flames hit rivalry status during the qualifying round last season inside the Edmonton bubble, sparked by a controversial hit by Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk on Mark Scheifele.

The two reacquaint to open the season, and will then play eight more times before the playoffs, including a stretch of four consecutive games starting Feb. 1. The Jets will also play the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadians nine times while taking on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators 10 times.

Saturday’s are for the Jets this season, as they are featured in 12 Saturday games this year. 'March Madness' will carry new meaning in Winnipeg this season as well, with the Jets playing 16 times that month, including every Saturday.

The NHL also announced its key dates this season. The trade deadline falls on April 12, ahead of the May 11 start to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The playoffs are expected to end no later than July 15, with teams needing to submit protected player lists to the expansion Seattle Kraken by July 17, ahead of the expansion draft slated for July 21.

It will be a short turnaround for the NHL Entry draft scheduled just two days later, on July 23. Free Agency kicks off July 28.