The New Jersey Devils embark on their first road trip this season with stops throughout Canada, beginning tonight in Edmonton at 9:30 PM Eastern against the Edmonton Oilers.
The Devils have many new faces on their roster for this season, so these early road trips are crucial for building team chemistry. When the Devils schedule was released, I was happy to see that they were taking this trip to western Canada early in the season.
The trip early in the schedule is better than later in the course of a season when you might have players injured or fatigued. The team also will face some teams, with the exception of the Vancouver Canucks, that are struggling. This will give the Devils a great opportunity to get on the right track after two difficult losses to open the 2013-14 season.
First stop: Edmonton
The first stop on the road trip is Edmonton to play a young and talented Oilers team. The game will feature the season debut of Oilers star, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, after his recovery from offseason surgery went ahead of schedule. He was originally scheduled to return in November.
The Oilers also feature another young star and excellent skater, Taylor Hall, which the Devils will have to account for defensively. I think New Jersey has to keep a body on him defensively for the entire time he is on the ice.
The Oilers also are seeking their first win of the season tonight, and they have struggled defensively by allowing 11 goals so far (www.nhl.com).
The full preview of this game can be found on our site, and was done by my colleague, Thomas Formoso, earlier today.
The Devils obviously need to get going in all phases of the game, but I observed some very good developments in the overtime loss to the New York Islanders. New Jersey played well on the penalty kill in that game, staying very disciplined against the speed of the Islanders.
Some other reasons for optimism:
- Damien Brunner – he has been the Devils best player so far and he was the most recent addition to the roster. He has been aggressive going to the goal net, and he has made great decisions with the puck.
- The “CBGB” Line – the play of this line Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta, and Steve Bernier has been great through the first two games of the season.
- Ryane Clowe – another new face who played really well against the Islanders and has fit right into this system. Expect him to play well on this Canada trip.
- Goaltending – yes there is need for improvement in some of the goals allowed by New Jersey but both Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider have made some excellent saves and both have stepped up in key moments. A big game in the season will come tomorrow night when Schneider will start against his former team, the Canucks, my colleague David Garrison did a great piece on that today as well.
Tonight and the remainder of the trip
The Devils skate in Edmonton tonight at 9:30 PM Eastern on MSG+ and be sure to check out the awesome show, Hockey Night Live tonight on the MSG network following the game.
The remainder of the road trip, which I feel is going to galvanize this roster is as follows:
@Vancouver – tomorrow 10 PM EST
@ Calgary Flames – Friday 10/11 at 9 PM EST
@Winnipeg Jets – 10/13 at 8 PM EST
@Ottawa Senators – 10/17 at 7:30 PM EST
These games will be an important test for the Devils, and if you are a fan you really cannot miss them. It is early in the season, but we as fans will learn a great deal about this team after this trip. Many of the questions we have about this new roster will be answered, or at least, we will know a lot more than we do at this point about what type of season this will be for our beloved New Jersey Devils.