For those attending the game tonight, the staff at Devils Army Blog will have a meet and greet during the second intermission outside of section 15. Make sure to stop by and say hi!
The wait is finally over. The New Jersey Devils start their 2015-2016 NHL season tonight as they face off against the Winnipeg Jets. It’s going to be a night of inaugural Devils debuts for players and coaches alike. Along with his assistants Alain Nassredine and Geoff Ward, head coach John Hynes will make his official Devils debut as head coach, as well as six players in tonight’s projected lineup. Lee Stempniak, Kyle Palmieri, Sergey Kalinin, Jiri Tlusty, John Moore, and David Schlemko, are the newest skaters to don the Devils sweater, which provides testament to the retooling job Ray Shero orchestrated this summer. It was announced this morning that longtime Devils defenseman Andy Greene will be making a debut of his own, as the 11th captain in Devils history. Greene succeeds Bryce Salvador, and is poised to occupy the captaincy over the foreseeable future. Winnipeg is starting their season on a four-game road trip. They beat the Bruins 6-2 on Thursday night and are looking to spoil a second consecutive home opener by going 2-0.
The Jets put on quite a display last night with six different forwards scoring in their season opening beat down against Boston. Alex Burmistrov and drew Stafford had a goal and assist each, while Mark Scheifele followed up his strong preseason play (3G 5P in 5 games) with a goal and won 75% of his face-offs. Rookie forwards Nikolaj Ehlers, Nicolas Petan, and Andrew Copp turned heads during the preseason, and were a huge part of Winnipeg’s first win of the season. Ehlers had a team-high five shots on goal, while Petan and Copp combined for a goal and two points. Winnipeg has a young, fast, dynamic forward corps that the Devils defense can’t overlook in any situation tonight.
Anchored by Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers, one of the ways Winnipeg beats teams is with their physicality. Winipeg’s blue liners combined for 16 hits last night, and were among the ten-most physical teams in the 2014-2015 season, which they hope to continue this year. Winnipeg displayed some strong defensive play last night, having 13 of the game’s 22 blocked shots (nine coming from defensemen) and 7 of the 11 takeaways. The Devils have to be very mindful of watching the points when the play shifts to their own end, particularly when Myers and Byfuglien are on the ice. The booming shot each player possesses gives Winnipeg a secondary source of scoring, and makes the Jets that much more of a dangerous team to go down a man against.
Whether it’s Ondrej Pavelec or Michael Hutchinson, Winnipeg’s goaltending has emerged as one of the team’s fortes. Neither goalie missed a beat in the preseason, and Pavelec stopped 30 of 32 shots in his season debut, in which he played like he was already in midseason form. Both goalies combined for a .900 SV%, stopping 17 of 187 shots they faced in the preseason (Pavelec had a .921 SV%, Hutchinson had a .890). New Jersey has to hope their success in outshooting their opponents that they saw in the preseason carries over into the regular season. If Pavelec let in two goals on 32 shots he faced in his season debut, the Devils will have a tough time if they’re averaging five or six shots on goal per period.
Who to watch
Lee Stempniak…He was one of the most talked about Devils players throughout the preseason. His efforts paid off and he finds himself poised to start on the Devils top line with Travis Zajac and Mike Cammalleri. There is more significance to this game for Stempniak (Tlusty as well) since he’s starting the season against his former team, and the most recent one he played with before coming to New Jersey for that matter. In addition to this being his Devils debut, a strong first showing is in the best interest of Stempniak and the Devils.
Dustin Byfuglien…His aforementioned cannon of a shot makes him a perpetual threat whenever he’s on the ice. He has a fairly good track record against New Jersey over his career, posting two goals and 11 points over the 17 games he’s played against them. He should be a heavy contributor in shots and hits for his team tonight, which will make him a considerable obstacle for the Devils to face in all three zones tonight. He’s coming off Winnipeg’s season opener with an assist, four hits, and three shots, totals that he’ll either build on tonight or that get counteracted if New Jersey comes hot out of the gate.
What to watch
The three scoring lines format…Yesterday, it looked like Coach Hynes was front-loading his offensive depth in the Devils offensive lineup when he had Palmieri, Cammalleri, and Zajac as his top line. Palmieri has been reunited with Jacob Josefson, Adam Henrique, and Reid Boucher is back at left wing on the third line, while Jordin Tootoo was relegated to the fourth line with Stephen Gionta and Tuomo Ruutu. The Devils scoring depth is more evenly distributed throughout the lineup this way. It looks like Coach Hynes is trying to see if this team is capable of having three lines that can contribute offensively, while the fourth line (although fast) takes on more of a checking role.
Where to watch
MSG Plus 2
When to watch