Opening night in the NHL will feature all of the league's 30 teams in action for the first time, including the Washington Capitals hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets at MCI Center. The season begins Oct. 5.

The Capitals' schedule is highlighted by four home games against reigning Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay, thanks to a new format that emphasizes division rivalries. Washington will play Southeast Division foes Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Florida eight times apiece, up from six.

"I wish we played every team, but I understand that playing a lot against your division builds rivalries," said center Jeff Halpern, a Washington Capitals restricted free agent.

"Everyone wants to have rivalries like the Red Sox versus the Yankees," he added. "That's hard to do, but it will certainly heat things up between the [Southeast Division] teams and will be good for fans."

The schedule format also reduces the Capitals' number of games against Western Conference teams from 15 to 10. The Southeast Division will play home games against the Central Division this season and road games against the Pacific Division.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, who are expected to select junior phenom Sidney Crosby with the No. 1 overall pick in Saturday's draft, visit Washington twice, on Feb. 11 and March 8.

The regular season will conclude on April 18, with the Stanley Cup playoffs set to begin three nights later.

The schedule includes a break from Feb. 13 to 27 so players can participate in the Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. There won't be an NHL all-star game in Olympic years.

The Capitals' schedule also features games on several holidays, including Columbus Day (Oct. 10 vs. the Rangers), Veterans Day (Nov. 11 vs. New Jersey), Thanksgiving eve (Nov. 23 vs. Tampa Bay), New Year's Eve (vs. Philadelphia) and New Year's Day (vs. Atlanta).

Notes: The NHL announced that the 2008 entry draft will be held at Corel Center in Ottawa. The entry draft had been scheduled for Corel Center in June, but was canceled because of the labor dispute that wiped out all of the 2004-05 season. A scaled-down version of the draft will be held in Canada's capital city on Saturday.

The Capitals are expected to come to terms with right wing Eric Fehr, a 2003 first round draft pick (18th overall), by today's deadline.