NATIONWIDE — It’s been more than four months since NHL players competed on the ice, and normally the Stanley Cup would have been claimed by now.

What You Need To Know

  • Stanley Cup playoffs qualification round starts Saturday, August 1

  • 24 teams to compete in Toronto and Edmonton bubbles

  • Qualification round to determine seeding

  • NHL returns to play with zero new cases of coronavirus reported 

Fear not, hockey fans. The NHL officially restarts Saturday and several exhibition games get underway Tuesday.

Like other professional leagues, the NHL has made some adjustments. Players will be operating in bubbles, and these bubbles are strictly Canadian.

Who’s Competing in the Playoffs?

Here’s how it will work: 24 teams will compete in a postseason tournament, and the Stanley Cup will be awarded at its conclusion. Eastern Conference teams will compete in Toronto and Western Conference teams in Vancouver.

Competing in the Eastern Conference are the following:

  • Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Boston Bruins
  • Philadelphia Flyers
  • Washington Capitals
  • Pittsburgh Penguins
  • New York Islanders
  • Carolina Hurricanes
  • Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Toronto Maple Leafs
  • New York Rangers
  • Florida Panthers
  • Montreal Canadiens

Competing in the Western Conference are the following:

  • Vegas Golden Knights
  • Dallas Stars
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • Nashville Predators
  • Calgary Flames
  • Winnipeg Jets
  • St. Louis Blues
  • Colorado Avalanche
  • Edmonton Oilers
  • Minnesota Wild
  • Arizona Coyotes
  • Chicago Blackhawks

The qualification round starts Saturday. There is seeding in place going into the weekend games, but it could be out the window. The top four teams in each conference will play each other round-robin for seeding, and it is possible that a fourth-place team could leap to first. Current seeding is as follows:

Eastern Conference:

  1. Boston Bruins
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning
  3. Washington Capitals
  4. Philadelphia Flyers

Western Conference:

  1. St. Louis Blues
  2. Colorado Avalanche
  3. Vegas Golden Knights
  4. Dallas Stars

Coronavirus Concerns

Of course there is lingering concern about the possibility of COVID-19 derailing the postseason. However, the NHL reported zero new cases of the novel coronavirus during the last week of training camp, and players will essentially be under lockdown for the duration of the tournament.

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How Do I Watch the Games?

The playoffs will look a little different this year. You’ll find three games per day in each hub city beginning Saturday. NBC is the NHL’s partner in the United States, and you can catch four games each day between August 1 and August 5 scattered across NBC, NBCSN, and USA Network.

If you purchased NHL Center Ice or the NHL.TV streaming package, you will be able to watch the games on those platforms but local blackouts will apply.