Friday, October 4, 2013
W2W4: Devils vs. Islanders
By Katie Strang
At a glance: The Islanders open their 2013-14 season against a division rival as the New Jersey Devils try to get back on track after a 3-0 loss to the Penguins in their first game of the season Thursday. The teams met twice in the preseason -- each taking a game -- but this time it's for real when the puck drops Friday night at 7 p.m. in Newark.
Brodeur is back: Though his streak of starting the season opener in 18 straight seasons came to an end Thursday when Cory Schneider got the nod instead, goaltender Martin Brodeur will play his first game of the year in front of a home crowd. Devils coach Pete DeBoer wanted to give Brodeur an extra day to prepare for his first start of the season, considering his four-day leave from the team last week following the death of his father, Denis. This could very well be the last season for the 41-year-old future Hall of Famer.
New era: Friday night marks the first game of John Tavares' tenure as the Islanders' 14th captain in team history. The 23-year-old is coming off a spectacular 2013 season (he was as a Hart Trophy finalist), and he hopes to build off that by leading his team back to the playoffs. Tavares averaged almost a point per game during last year's lockout-shortened season with 28 goals and 47 points in 48 games.
Aiming high: The Islanders were a revitalized bunch after their first playoff appearance in six years last season and the plucky squad left the postseason after a surprisingly competitive series against the Penguins wanting more. With realignment, they'll still have tough divisional foes like the Rangers and Penguins to battle. A couple of newcomers to the division, particularly Washington, will provide stiff competition as well.
Hammer time:Travis Hamonic will play Friday, despite being shaken up from a hard hit taken in a game against Ottawa last Sunday. The 23-year-old defenseman, who inked a multiyear deal this summer, said he is "100 percent" and that his status for the season opener was never in question. Top defensive prospect Griffin Reinhart, a first-round draft pick in 2012 (4th overall), made the opening day roster but is not expected to play Friday. Young center Brock Nelson will make his NHL regular-season debut. The fellow first-rounder played in his first game as an Islander during the team's first-round series against the Penguins last spring.