Today we finally lay to rest an offseason of trials and tribulations. No longer can we lament about the losses of old number 17 and 23. It's about the future, and it's about Devils hockey.
The wait is over. In just a few short hours, it begins anew.
Lines for tonight's game:
Defense: Andy Greene, Adam Larsson, Bryce Salvador, Anton Volchenkov, Peter Harrold, Marek Zidlicky
Goaltender: Cory Schneider
(Note: Patrik Elias has been activated off of IR and will play tonight.)
Here are some thoughts on tonight's game
1. The first look at Cory Schneider- The newly acquired goaltender was sensation in the preseason, but, it was the preseason. He gets an extremely tough task tonight for his first real game in net for the Devils, having to face the high powered Penguins in Pittsburgh. The Pens make even the best goaltenders look bad, so it'll be up to Schneider to be at the top of his game tonight. His rebound control is usually sensation, and that's perhaps the most important part of negating the Penguins. They're a team that thrives on getting quality second chance opportunities. For the Devils to win, those have to be few and far between.
2. NJ has been successful against the Penguins when they slow them down- The Devils and Penguins play almost polar-opposite styles. While the Devils are content to work the puck in, grind in the corners and possess the puck, The Penguins are all about speed and capitalizing on turnovers. The Devils aggressive forecheck has negated the type of speed that the Pens like to have through neutral ice. That is a major reason why New Jersey has had a lot of success against Pittsburgh over the last two seasons. Pittsburgh is not built for a grind-it-out type of hockey game, just look at what the Boston Bruins did to them in the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
3. What will the power play do? It's be a very different look for the man-advantage this season, and it may take some time to see some results. Marek Zidlicky is finally in his wheelhouse, as a power play quarterback who can distribute the puck. With Michael Ryder, Damien Brunner, Ryane Clowe and Jaromir Jagr all added to the mix, there are quite a few different skill sets that the Devils can unleash on the power play. There's a good chance that we'll see quite a few different units, as Pete Deboer begins to figure out what works.
4. Limiting turnovers will be key- The Penguins are a team that thrives off of turnovers. There is no better team in the league at turning an opponent's mistake into a goal the other way. How many times have we seen Sidney Crosby making a big play off a miscue by the other team? The Devils know that the Pens are dangerous in that regard. What New Jersey cannot do tonight is turn the puck over by trying to do too much. They have to make the safe pass at all times and not try to force the play, that's not the Devils M.O anyways. If they let the game play out at their tempo, instead of trying to play at the Penguins speed, they will have every chance to emerge with two points.
Prediction- Penguins 3 Devils 2 (OT)
This is going to be a close game the whole way. The Penguins will come out strong, but Cory Schneider will keep it close early on. Look for the Devils to tie the game up in the third before ultimately falling in overtime.
Expect a strong effort all around, as the new faces look to make a positive first impression.
We'll have our Instant Insight piece up after the conclusion of the game.