(Sports Network) - The defending Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils
will kick off the new season on Long Island, as they visit the New York
Islanders for Saturday's contest at Nassau Coliseum.
Even though the Devils were a 102-point team during the 2011-12 regular season
it was still surprising to see the sixth-seeded club make a run to the Cup
Finals before bowing out to the Los Angeles Kings.
Peter DeBoer, who was in his first season as Jersey's head coach, deserves a
great deal of credit for last spring's success, but an encore performance
could prove difficult without former captain Zach Parise in the fold. Parise
opted to sign a lucrative 13-year contract with Minnesota in the offseason,
leaving a big hole in New Jersey's offense. The Devils still have sniper Ilya
Kovalchuk in tow, and the Russian sniper is coming off a season in which he
led Jersey in both goals (37) and points (83).
"Our guys are ready to go," DeBoer said. "They're hungry. They got a good
taste of it last year, and I think when you get a taste of it, you want to get
back and get the whole thing."
After losing his captain, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said, "You
don't replace a Zach Parise -- you just don't do that." Although the Devils
were unable to replace Parise's production, the club did hand over his "C" to
defenseman Bryce Salvador.
Martin Brodeur will start his 18th straight season opener in net for New
Jersey, extending his NHL record. At 40 years of age, the Devils still rely
heavily on Brodeur to be the team's best player.
"This is where you start your journey," Brodeur said of the season opener.
"It's going to start (Saturday) night. The journey is to try to get ourselves
into the playoffs first, and after that, challenging for a Stanley Cup. It's
always special to start the season, regardless of it's a shortened season or
any kind of season."
Unfortunately the Devils will have to start this season's journey without Adam
Henrique, who was a big part of New Jersey's success last year as a rookie. A
finalist for the Calder Trophy, Henrique posted 16 goals and 51 points in 74
games, but is sidelined indefinitely with a thumb injury.
While the Devils were on a run to the Stanley Cup Finals last spring, the
Islanders were watching the postseason from home for a fifth straight year.
Making matters worse, the 2011-12 campaign also was New York's fifth
consecutive year at the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings.
The Islanders are led by John Tavares, one of the best young playmaking
centers in the league, but the club doesn't have much else to brag about. New
York GM Garth Snow tried to add a talented offensive defenseman in Lubomir
Visnovsky in a trade with Anaheim during the offseason, but the Slovakian has
yet to report to the club and has been suspended by the team.
Visnovsky filed a grievance with the NHLPA to void the trade that sent him
from the Ducks to Long Island, but an arbitrator upheld the deal. Visnovsky
tried to stay in Europe with the KHL's Slovan Bratislava, but the Russian
league will not let him since the lockout is over and he's under contract to
play in the NHL. It's an ongoing saga, but there remains a glimmer of hope
that Visnovsky will skate with the Islanders at some point this season,
although that time won't be on Saturday night.
The Islanders only have three seasons left in Nassau Coliseum, the much-
maligned building that his been the team's home since it entered the NHL in
1972. The Isles finally landed a home when they announced a few months ago
that the franchise will move to Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season.
New York was 17-18-6 at the Coliseum in 2011-12 while the Devils went 24-15-2
on the road.
New Jersey won four of its six meetings against the Isles last season and has
taken eight of 10 overall in this series.
The Sports Network