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The Penguins and Senators played a pair of games in Stockholm, Sweden, to open the 2008-09 season. Stockhom will host an NHL opener next year, the NHL announced Thursday. ((Oliver Morin/AFP/Getty Images))

The NHL confirmed Thursday that it would again be heading to Europe to start a new hockey season.

But the six teams that were scheduled to square off for the beginning of the 2009-10 season have been whittled down to four.

The Detroit Red Wings will face off against the St. Louis Blues in Stockholm, and the Chicago Blackhawks will tussle with the Florida Panthers in Helsinki.

"The NHL premiere games are a signature event for the league, our players and our fans," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Playing regular-season games overseas is an excellent way to further engage the passionate NHL fan base in Europe and encourage the growth of the game of hockey."

It will be the second time in a row that Stockholm hosts an NHL season-opener, but the first time Finland will host an NHL regular-season game.

"It's something different and really exciting, for sure," said Panthers left wing Ville Peltonen, who was born in Finland. "I think they have been waiting to get a real game."

The Red Wings are a dream team to show up for a game in Stockholm. The Wings feature several of the NHL's top Swedish players, including Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Lidstrom and Johan Franzen.

"[It's] fantastic. The world's best club team is coming to Sweden and Swedish fans will get the chance to see an NHL opener in Stockholm for the second time," said Thomas Johansson, a spokesman for the Swedish co-organizers.

The league originally wanted to send six teams overseas, but planning for the games was delayed by a dispute between the league and the players union, which forced organizers in Prague to drop out.

It's the third straight year that the NHL will open in Europe. Ottawa and Pittsburgh opened this season in Stockholm, while the New York Rangers played Tampa Bay in Prague. In 2007-08, Anaheim and Los Angeles played two games in London.

With files from the Canadian Press