The Devils would love to build some early momentum with a win over one of the West’s best teams. Here’s what to watch for when the puck drops at The Rock tonight.
A familiar face
Mike Richards is no stranger to the Garden State. Richards already has a goal and an assist in two games with his new team, but in his former life as a Flyer, Richards never really tormented the Devils in their own lair. In fact, the last time he scored a goal in New Jersey's barn was a little over two years ago, Oct. 3, 2010. He’ll have a little extra help tonight however as Dustin Penner will make his season debut alongside Richards and Dustin Brown.
That doesn't mean Richards won't make his presence felt though, and the biggest beneficiary may be Anze Kopitar. The fledgling star found the back of the net three times during the Kings’ trip across the pond. While its only two games, Kopitar has been enjoying more time in the offensive zone, taking 64 percent of his draws in the O-zone, about a 12% increase over last season.
As the Devils know from last season, “early” can become “late” mighty quick, so it has to be encouraging that both Zach Parise (back from injury) and Ilya Kovalchuk (back from a season of underperformance) are off to fast starts with multiple points in their first two games.
It would be more encouraging if the Devils could get some more rubber on the net as a team, topping out at 26 shots on goal through first two games, but if L.A. holds true to its form from a season ago that could be tough. The Kings allowed just 27.9 shots against per game, the third best mark in the league in 2010-11.
While the Devs have largely been able to hang at home since the start of training camp, the Kings have been flying all over Europe in the early going. In theory that should give the Devils a little edge in the fatigue department late in the game. That will be good to have, but a lead after two periods would be better. It’s a different team in 2011-12, but last season’s Devs won 22 of 24 games in which they led entering the third period. Conversely, they rallied just four times in 39 opportunities when trailing after 40 minutes.