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The NHL is expected to make its return to play next week. After the NHL and NHLPA ratified the return-to-play plan, the schedule was released and the hub cities — Toronto and Edmonton — were officially announced earlier this month. Like most professional sports, the NHL 2019-20 season was paused nearly five months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic and will return by heading straight into the playoffs with a 24-team format. Ahead of the Boston Bruins departure for Canada, forward Brad Marchand said that he’s expecting ‘sloppy hockey’ when the 24 teams return to the ice.

In a Bruins video interview, Marchand said that he believes it will take a bit of time for players to get back into game form.

“I think it’s going to be really sloppy hockey, to be honest with you. We’ve been off for four or five months, whatever it’s been, and it takes more than a couple of weeks to get it all back and be at the top of your game. And the ice conditions are not going to be good in the middle of summer. So I just don’t think it’s going to be great hockey.”

“But we’ll all be on the same playing field and we’ll have had the same amount of time to get ready,” Marchand continued. “We’re just going to have to battle it out, regardless of the situation. It’s still going to be intense, it’s going to be hard-fought, and there are going to be some nice plays. But it’s going to be a little choppy, especially to start.”

On July 26, teams will travel from their home markets to one of the hub cities, either Toronto or Edmonton. The 12 Western Conference teams are headed to Edmonton to play at Rogers Arena, home of the Oilers, while the East will play their games at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, where the Maple Leafs play, to start. No fans will be present at games.

You can view the full schedule for the Stanley Cup qualifying round schedule, as well as information on the exhibition games that will take place before the qualifiers here.

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