Four European games to help open league's 2011-12 season

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Hockey League will help launch its 2011-12 regular season with games in Helsinki, Stockholm and Berlin, the league and its players association announced Monday.

Games on October 7 will match the Anaheim Ducks against the Buffalo Sabres in Helsinki and the New York Rangers against the Los Angeles Kings in Stockholm.

The Sabres and Kings will bring the NHL's first regular season game to Berlin the next day when the Rangers also meet the Ducks in Stockholm.

The contests will mark the fifth consecutive year the NHL has played games in Europe. All four teams featured are playoff-bound this season.

"We want to grow the NHL game around the world, and the games are an important part of that effort," NHL Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr said in a statement.

The games will also give European players such as Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist the chance to play in front of home fans, having represented Sweden in the past two Winter Olympics.

Anaheim and Los Angeles also will play exhibition games on October 4. The Ducks will face Jokerit in Helsinki and the Kings will meet the Hamburg Freezers in Hamburg.

"The games underscore the strength of our game, the popularity of our players and the international appeal of our brand," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

Approximately 25 percent of the players in the NHL this season were born outside North America.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina. To query or comment on this story email