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Saturday, January 26, 2008
NHL to open season with doubleheaders in Prague, Stockholm

Associated Press

ATLANTA -- The NHL will return to Europe to open next season, announcing Saturday that two games each will be played in Prague and Stockholm.

The New York Rangers will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning at Sazka Arena in the Czech Republic, and the Ottawa Senators will face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Globe Arena in Sweden's capital city.

The games will be played Oct. 4 and 5.

"We'll start next season with doubleheaders in two international venues," commissioner Gary Bettman said on the eve of the league's All-Star Game in Atlanta. "We're all pretty excited about that."

The league clearly wants to showcase some of its top players, such as Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson and Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier. Of course, the top draw in Prague would be New York's Jaromir Jagr -- if he's still with the Rangers.

The Czech standout could become a free agent after this season.

"There's no guarantee that anyone on our team right now will be on our team in the fall," said Glen Sather, president and general manager of the Rangers.

The NHL opened its current season in London. The Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks played the Los Angeles Kings before two sellout crowds at O2 Arena.

As a warm-up to their regular-season opener, the Rangers are scheduled to meet European club champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk of Russia on Oct. 1 for the inaugural Victoria Cup in Bern, Switzerland.

The International Ice Hockey Federation is organizing that game -- named after the Montreal arena where the first organized game was held in 1875 -- as part of its 100th anniversary celebration.

The IIHF hopes to make the Victoria Cup an annual event between the European champ and an NHL challenger.