NHL sets schedule for exhibitions, Cup qualifiers

National Hockey League logo. Courtesy NHL.com.

The National Hockey League is a step closer to getting its players back on the ice.

The league unveiled on Tuesday the schedule for exhibition games, as well as the format for the Stanley Cup playoff qualifying series.

Each of the 24 teams still in the mix will play one exhibition game beginning on Tuesday, July 28. The Toronto Maple Leafs will play its exhibition game against the Montreal Canadiens on July 28 at Scotiabank Arena.

Toronto and Edmonton will serve as the hub cities for the remainder of the season, in order to limit travel needs for players, coaches, team staff and media due to COVID-19. All Eastern Conference teams will play their exhibition, and qualifying games in Toronto, with Western Conference teams playing in Edmonton.

The Stanley Cup Qualifiers begin Saturday, August 1. According to the NHL, the top four teams in each conference, based on points percentage, will play a three-game round-robin, which will determine their seeding in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The teams with the number five through number-12 seeds will play in eight best-of-five series. The winners of the best-of-five series will advance to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the four teams from the round-robin.

The Leafs, as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, will face the ninth-seeded Columbus Blue Jackets in a best-of-five qualifying series. Game one will take place on Sunday, August 2, at 8 p.m. in Toronto.

The top four teams in the East, which will play in a round-robin format, are the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers, and Washington Capitals. In the West, the top four teams are the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, and Vegas Golden Knights.

The Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators did not qualify for this round due to low point totals. The  Senators hold the third-overall pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, while the Red Wings, who had been favoured to get the top pick overall, fell to fourth overall.

The qualifying round is scheduled to be completed no later than Sunday, August 9. The complete schedule is available on the official NHL website.