My mother taught me a lot of things growing up. For instance, I can cook a chef worthy meal like it’s nobody’s business thanks to my mom. I can also tell time on the old style clocks that have hands, not just the digital kind. Perhaps the most valuable teaching I incurred from my mother was her notion that “it’s 12 O’clock somewhere”. When you’re pressed with the dilemma that 10:34 A.M. is way too early to crack a beer, it’s completely acceptable to indicate that it is in fact 12:00 somewhere. Thus, you open that beer and you drink it like you would at 11:27 on a Saturday night. The Carolina Hurricanes will open the 2010-11 NHL season at 12:00 P.M. ET today when they visit the Minnesota Wild (except it’s taking place in Helsinki!).

Another NHL season is upon us, and if you’re not quite sure of what that means or how you should effectively prepare for the incoming onslaught of hockey – please check our handy guide to opening night preparation.  In the meantime, let’s take a look at several matchups we’ll be watching:

Flyers vs. Penguins – 7:00 P.M. ET

The puck drops on a new era in Pittsburgh as the long awaited opening of the Consol Energy Center will welcome the Penguins’ Pennsylvania rivals the Philadelphia Flyers.  Both clubs are beset by several injuries; Michael Leighton is on the shelf in Philly while the Penguins will attempt to cope without the shutdown services of one Jordan Staal for the foreseeable future.  Studly kleptomaniac Chris Pronger remains a question mark heading into the season, he has only recently begun skating with his teammates following offseason knee surgery.

It’s a tale of two clubs that have tasted the Stanley Cup Finals.  The Penguins know the feeling of defeat, but they’ve also sipped the bubbly from Lord Stanley’s mug.  The Flyers were last season’s Cinderella story, if Cinderella were a big mean bully.  Philadelphia will look to start the season on the right foot, they were slow out of the gate in 2009-10 but came together after narrowly squeaking into the playoffs.  For Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Ben Lovejoy there is not alternative to victory.  2009-10 was a disappointment by Penguins’ standards, you’d be crazy to think that they won’t come out of the gate in mid-season form.

Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs – 7:00 P.M. ET

The oldest rivalry in hockey will be renewed this evening when the Montreal Canadiens look to build on a fantastic playoff run from a season ago, and the Toronto Maple Leafs prepare to prove that they’re not a bunch of losers.  There’s no doubt that Leafs’ general manager Brian Burke has a better team going into the season than he did a year ago, but can they score enough goals?  The Canadiens may be without the chosen one Carey Price, as he is dealing with sickness… we’re unsure if it’s of the 40oz. flu variety.

The Dion Phaneuf as captain era officially begins tonight, and if you live in Canada and own a television, then you know that Dion really really likes to be on camera and do things in slow motion.  It’s sink or swim for the Maple Leafs this season, and you can bet they’ll be working hard to avoid beginning 2010-11 the same way they did in 09-10.  Montreal will be without playoff scoring machine Mike Cammalleri as he sits out a game for his attempted tracheotomy on Nino Niederreiter last week.  The odds are in favor of Colton Orr rearranging somebody’s face tonight, who that will be remains a question.

Flames vs. Oilers – 10:00 P.M. ET

The battle of Alberta is always a rugged affair, but tonight all eyes will be on the Edmonton Oilers trio of young guns Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi.  The Oilers will look to usher in a new era with their young and talented roster, the big three kids will be fun to watch – but the real treat this season could very well be the emergence of Sam Gagner.

Calgary is out to prove everybody wrong when they take the ice with former goats Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay.  There’s a lot of talent and grit on the Flames roster, Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester will both be looking to reestablish themselves as top-tier stars.  I’ve personally designated the Flames as my sleeper/surprise team in the West.  Sure, there’s questions with some of Darryl Sutter’s personnel decisions, but there’s too much star power to simply dismiss the Flames.