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NHL lockout officially over; Blackhawks open Jan. 19 at Kings

Patrick Kane Blackhawks will play their home opener Jan. 22 against Blues.  |  AP

Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks will play their home opener Jan. 22 against the Blues. | AP

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Updated: February 14, 2013 6:59AM

Blackhawks players are no longer locked out by the NHL. But they’re pretty much locked out of the United Center for a while.

The NHL and NHLPA once again went deep into the night to hammer out the details of the Memorandum of Understanding that made the new collective-bargaining agreement — ratified by the NHL Board of Governors on Wednesday and by the players Saturday morning — official and ended the lockout a little after 9 p.m. Saturday. That allowed teams to release their 48-game schedules, open training camp (the Hawks begin Sunday) and make transactions.

And thanks to the Bulls, Disney on Ice and Lady Gaga, the Hawks will play 10 of their first 12 games on the road, starting Jan. 19 in Los Angeles against the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings.

After playing the next night in Phoenix, the Hawks have their home opener Jan. 22 against the Blues.

There won’t be much time to climb out of an early hole should the Hawks struggle early. The Hawks were 27-8-6 at the United Center last season, and just 18-18-5 on the road. But the Hawks knew the United Center was pretty well booked this time of year, and were bracing for a schedule like this.

“I think it’s an advantage,” Bryan Bickell said on Friday. “Do some team bonding on the road. All the guys enjoy to be together, goof around and that kind of stuff. Just to get some chemistry and to get to know everybody. I haven’t seen these guys in four months.”

After the brutal road stretch, the Hawks will have seven straight home games. They close with three out of four on the road.

“It could work both ways, I guess,” goaltender Corey Crawford said. “Whatever you’re thinking. If you’re thinking negatively, it’ll probably work negatively. If you’re thinking positively, well, we’ll have a lot of home games down the stretch.”

The Hawks have 10 instances of back-to-back games, and nine stretches of three games in four days. At only three points in the season will they have more than two days off in a row.

“Every game’s going to be important,” Bickell said. “It’s going to be good to have the home games late, because it might come down to that.’’

The last time the league faced a schedule like this was in 1995, following that season’s lockout. Hawks winger Patrick Kane was just 6 years old then, but he’s heard stories about that 48-game season — which began on Jan. 20 and ended May 3, with the Stanley Cup being won by New Jersey on June 24 — and how wild it was.

“I hear the ’94-’95 season was very intense,” Kane said. “I think you can expect the same thing out here. To start, maybe it’ll be a little more wide open because guys aren’t familiar with systems and different things, and have been away from the game for so long. As time goes on, it’s definitely going to get very intense because of the short season. It’s going to be interesting.’’

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