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Huet making an early return

The Washington Capitals will make their 2008-2009 home debut against another young team on the rise, hosting the Chicago Blackhawks in the season's first game at Verizon Center.

The Caps will raise the Southeast Division champion banner before the Oct. 11 game, which will mark the return of goaltender Cristobal Huet, the Frenchman who helped lead Washington to its first playoff appearance in five years after being acquired by the team in a midseason trade. The Blackhawks signed Huet as a free agent last month.

The home opener also will feature the top three finalists for the 2008 Calder Trophy. Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane beat out Caps center Nicklas Backstrom for rookie of the year honors. Chicago center Jonathan Toews finished third in the voting.

For the second year in a row, the Caps will open the season on the road with an Oct. 10 game against the Atlanta Thrashers.

Under a new NHL scheduling system, the Caps will play every team in the league at least once and will face Western Conference foes Columbus, Los Angeles and Nashville twice each. The Caps will face their Southeast Division opponents six times each, down from eight in past years.

The Caps last hosted the Blackhawks in a home opener in 1996, which they lost 5-2. The Caps have a record of 21-15-5-1 against Chicago at home but a 33-37-11-1 mark overall. Washington has won its last four home openers and has a record of 16-14-2-0 in the games.

The Caps will release their full schedule Thursday.

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