New Jersey Devils: Keys to Season Opener

Thursday October 13th, the New Jersey Devils open the season on the road against the Florida Panthers. Here is a preview of the much-anticipated season opener.

Time / Broadcast Info

7:30PM on MSG+ at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL.

Team Records
At long last for die hard hockey fans, the Devils will kick the season off in Florida.

Season opener for Florida and New Jersey. Florida finished first in the Atlantic Division last year with 103 points. The Devils tallied 84 points, which placed them a dismal seventh in the Metropolitan Division.

Panthers News and Notes
  • It looks like former Tampa Bay forward Jonathan Marchessault will replace the injured Jonathan Huberdeau on the Panthers’ top line. That’s a huge loss for Florida. Center Nick Bjugstad will also miss the game with a broken hand.
  • Diminutive center Denis Malgin, who had a surprisingly good camp. looks to be centering Florida’s third line. It’s a big step up from the Swiss A-League. He’s 19 years old.
  • That’s 25 years younger than former Devil Jaromir Jagr, who amazingly is still productive and patrolling a wing on Florida’s top unit.
  • Not surprisingly, 37 year old Roberto Luongo is expected to be between the pipes for the season opener.  He’s coming off a fine 35 win, .922 save percentage season.
  • Defensive minded center Derek MacKenzie was recently named the ninth captain in Florida team history. He succeeded Willie Mitchell.
Devils News and Notes
  • There are a slew of new forwards, both veteran and rookies alike, on the Devils opening night roster.
  • The veterans, highlighted by Taylor Hall but bolstered by P.A. Parenteau, Vern Fiddler and Beau Bennett, look to add some much-needed punch to the Devils attack.  Newcomers Pavel Zacha, Miles Wood and the surprise of training camp, Blake Speers, also hope to make an imprint on the proceedings.
  • The Devils need more production from this group to jump start their feeble 2015-16 attack (league worst 182 goals).
  • Two rookie defensemen, Yohann Auvitu and Steven Santini, in essence make their debuts for the Devils (Santini played the final game of the season last year).  They, and free agent signings Ben Lovejoy and Kyle Quincey, have some big shoes to fill, those formerly occupied by number one pairing defenseman Adam Larsson (via the Taylor Hall trade).
  • I’ll be carefully watching the minutes of the Devils captain, Andy Greene. There surely is a temptation to play the rock solid defender 25+ minutes a game. A heavy workload of that nature over a period of several games could burn him out.
  • While I certainly am not worried about him, Cory Schneider did not have the sharpest preseason campaign. That needs to change, the Devils need Cory at his absolute best.
Two key injuries have significantly depleted the forward ranks of the Panthers.
What To Expect

The Devils restocked the cupboard with several talented forwards, but the shelves are a bit bare on the blue line. While that might change once the new parts on the blue line start to jell a bit, I expect some games featuring more goals than Devils fans are used to seeing.

Starting with Florida, Tampa and the Ducks is some tough sledding. It sounds ridiculous in a way, but the Devils really need at least a point at Sunrise. Starting out 0-3-0 is not beyond the realm of possibility. With Huberdeau and Bjugstad shelved, this could be New Jersey’s best opportunity to get points on the board.

Since this is a Devils site, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict a 4-3 Devils victory, with Jay Jo and Parenteau beating Luongo in a shootout. Hope I’m right. Go Devils!