NHL releases qualifying round schedule

Each city will host three games per day during the prequel to playoffs.

As the NHL and NHLPA finalize the extension of their collective bargaining agreement and formalize the return to play plan, the one question fans really want answered is this: when do I get to watch hockey again?

Of course, if you’re looking for Sharks hockey, we’re still months away. The Stanley Cup Final is tentatively scheduled to be held, at the latest, into the first week of October. Fitting in appropriate recuperation time, the 2020 draft and free agency, not to mention training camps, and the soonest the Sharks will be playing meaningful games is probably some time in early December.

Speaking of meaningful hockey, the league’s best imitation of playoffs will officially begin on August 1 in Edmonton and Toronto. The best-of-five qualifying round will run simultaneously with a robin robin tournament to determine seeding for the top four teams in each conference.

Here’s the schedule, broken down by series:

Eastern Conference

Round Robin

Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers vs. Bruins
Monday, Aug. 3: Capitals vs. Lightning
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Lightning vs. Bruins
Thursday, Aug. 6: Capitals vs. Flyers
Saturday, Aug. 8: Bruins vs. Capitals
Sunday, Aug. 9: Flyers vs. Lightning

Pittsburgh Penguins (5) vs. Montreal Canadiens (12)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens vs. Penguins
Monday, Aug. 3: Canadiens vs. Penguins
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Penguins vs. Canadiens
Friday, Aug. 7: Penguins vs. Canadiens*
Saturday, Aug. 8: Penguins vs. Canadiens*

Carolina Hurricanes (6) vs. New York Rangers (11)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Rangers vs. Hurricanes
Monday, Aug. 3: Rangers vs. Hurricanes
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes vs. Rangers
Thursday, Aug. 6: Hurricanes vs. Rangers*
Saturday, Aug. 8: Rangers vs. Hurricanes*

New York Islanders (7) vs. Florida Panthers (10)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Panthers vs. Islanders
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Panthers vs. Islanders
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Islanders vs. Panthers
Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders vs. Panthers*
Sunday, Aug. 9: Panthers vs. Islanders*

Toronto Maple Leafs (8) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (9)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs
Thursday, Aug. 6: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets
Friday, Aug. 7: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets*
Sunday, Aug. 9: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs*

Western Conference

Round Robin

Sunday, Aug. 2: Blues vs. Avalanche
Monday, Aug. 3: Stars vs. Golden Knights
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Avalanche vs. Stars
Thursday, Aug. 6: Golden Knights vs. Blues
Saturday, Aug. 8: Golden Knights vs. Avalanche
Sunday, Aug. 9: Stars vs. Blues

Edmonton Oilers (5) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (12)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Blackhawks vs. Oilers
Monday, Aug. 3: Blackhawks vs. Oilers
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Oilers vs. Blackhawks
Friday, Aug. 7: Oilers vs. Blackhawks*
Saturday, Aug. 8: Blackhawks vs. Oilers*

Nashville Predators (6) vs. Arizona Coyotes (11)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes vs. Predators
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Coyotes vs. Predators
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Predators vs. Coyotes
Friday, Aug. 7: Predators vs. Coyotes*
Sunday, Aug. 9: Coyotes vs. Predators*

Vancouver Canucks (7) vs. Minnesota Wild (10)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Wild vs. Canucks
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Wild vs. Canucks
Thursday, Aug. 6: Canucks vs. Wild
Friday, Aug. 7: Canucks vs. Wild*
Sunday, Aug. 9: Wild vs. Canucks*

Calgary Flames (8) vs. Winnipeg Jets (9)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Jets vs. Flames
Monday, Aug. 3: Jets vs. Flames
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Flames vs. Jets
Thursday, Aug. 6: Flames vs. Jets*
Saturday, Aug. 8: Jets vs. Flames*

(* — if necessary)

As far as game times, they’ll be staggered, with each city host two or three games per day. The time slots for Eastern Conference games will be noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET. Western Conference games will fall at 2 p.m. ET, 6:30 p.m. ET and 10:30 p.m. ET. — though game times may fluctuate by a half hour, the qualifying round will be using regular-season overtime rules and shouldn’t run over too much. The full broadcast schedule is yet to come.

Players will have three days to notify teams if they are choosing to opt out of this plan and do not need to cite a reason to do so, nor will they be penalized for sitting out.