CHICAGO — Three years ago, a pingpong ball took a fortuitous bounce for the Blackhawks, and they came out winners in a lottery that has helped revive the franchise.
With just little more than an 8 percent chance of winning the top pick in the 2007 draft, the Blackhawks were able to leapfrog the team with the worst record, the Flyers, and they made Patrick Kane their No. 1 choice. The Flyers took James van Riemsdyk at No. 2.
Now both players are in the Stanley Cup final, facing each other. Game 1 is tonight at the United Center.
"It seems like it's almost worked out good for both teams," Kane said.
Kane and van Riemsdyk, both 21 and both wings, played together in the world junior championship for the United States and remain close. They went to dinner when the Blackhawks were in Philadelphia for their only meeting with the Flyers in the regular season.
Kane headed right to the NHL and quickly emerged as a star. A consistent scoring threat with his speed and puck-handling skills, Kane was rookie of the year in 2007-08. Van Riemsdyk headed to college first (New Hampshire) and signed with the Flyers last year.
"We were both put in different situations," van Riemsdyk said. "And we were in different stages of our hockey development, and, you know, I did what I thought was best for me to be a better player. (Kane) was obviously ready to make that jump right after the draft. He's done a good job for himself."
Penguins, Flames get 2011 outdoor games
As expected, the league said the Penguins will host the Capitals on Jan. 1 at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field for the fourth installment of the Winter Classic. Pittsburgh played the Sabres in Buffalo in the first edition. And the Flames will host the Canadiens on Feb. 20 at Calgary's McMahon Stadium.
In other scheduling news, next season opens in October with six teams playing in Europe: the Hurricanes and Wild in Helsinki, Finland; the Blue Jackets and Sharks in Stockholm, Sweden; and the Bruins and Coyotes in Prague, Czech Republic. The teams also will play exhibition games in Europe, including St. Petersburg, Russia, the league's first visit to the country in 20 years.
Meanwhile, the All-Star Game returns. The Hurricanes host Jan. 30 in Raleigh, N.C.
State of the league: At his Cup final news conference, commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is "not now dealing with any franchise going out of business or moving."
Bettman said the league is committed to keeping a team in Arizona. Confirming that an offer for the financially troubled Coyotes was made by investors in Winnipeg, where the franchise was located first, Bettman said he expects the sale of the team, which the league owns, to take place this summer.
On other subjects:
• Not happy that an International Ice Hockey Federation spokesman slammed NHL stars for not competing in this month's world championship with their teams not in or eliminated from the playoffs, Bettman said participation in the event should be reviewed.
• Bettman said the salary cap could rise by about $2 million next season. This season's cap was $56.8 million.
Lightning: The team signed prospect Mark Barberio, a defenseman selected 152nd in the 2008 draft. Teams have two years to sign picks before they are eligible to return to the draft. It is expected Tampa Bay will allow that to happen with right wings Kyle DeCoste, taken 147th in 2008, and Matias Sointu, taken 182nd. Barberio, 20, had career highs last season of 17 goals, 43 assists, 60 points and three shorthanded goals in 65 games for Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.