Last season, the Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils were two of the biggest surprises in the National Hockey League, each ending droughts by reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Neither team is going to sneak up on anyone this season, yet both are off to strong starts heading into their first meeting of 2018-19 on Thursday night at Prudential Center.
The Devils (4-0-0) are the only NHL team not to have lost a game so far. The Avalanche (3-1-2) are playing well despite losing two straight.
"It's a challenge playing these guys," Devils center Brian Boyle said. "They're a lot like us -- young, fast, hungry. It should be a good game."
New Jersey is outscoring the opposition by a dominating 17-4 through four games. Goalie Keith Kinkaid already has two shutouts, including Tuesday's 3-0 win over the Dallas Stars, and he owns a sparkling .961 save percentage to go along with a 1.00 goals-against average.
"He's just taken that net and owned every part of it," Devils defenseman Will Butcher told the team's website. "He's taken a huge step in his game."
Kinkaid is not alone, though, in the Devils' early-season success. Kyle Palmieri scored the opening goal in all four games this season, and has seven through four games. Jean-Sebastien Dea has three goals in four games.
Eight players have three points or more, including four defensemen. The team has killed off 13 of 14 penalties and is perfect the last 13 times short-handed.
"It's fun to come to the rink right now," Palmieri said. "The team's in a good mood, and we're happy with the way we're playing. We're beating some really good teams, so, hopefully, we just keep that going."
New Jersey is rolling even though reigning Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall is without a goal through four games -- though he does have four assists. Certainly, the Avalanche and their top player, Nathan MacKinnon, will be aware of Hall on the ice. >> Read more
Copyright 2018 by The Associated Press