Devils vs Flyers…In what has to be a first for Devils and Flyers fans alike, both teams will be engaged in split squad games tonight as the NHL preseason gets under way. The Devils will host their longtime division rivals at the Rock, while a second lineup of theirs takes on the Montreal Canadians at the Bell Centre. The squad preparing to face off at the Rock mostly features young prospects and AHL-bound journeymen, along with a lesser core of veterans. Leading the charge up front will be household names familiar to Devils fans like Mike Cammalleri, Travis Zajac, and Pavel Zacha, while Damon Severson, Andy Greene, and Ben Lovejoy man the blue line. Keith Kinkaid and tryout attendee Anders Lindback will be in between the pipes. The Flyers will deploy a forward group that isn’t as veteran-savvy as New Jersey’s, and won’t have the usual suspects like Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Claude Giroux. Their defense in New Jersey will feature top prospect Ivan Provorov, along with familiar names like Brandon Manning and TJ Brennan.
Devils vs Canadians…The Devils squad playing the visitor role in tonight’s matchup against the Habs will have a more experienced lineup of forwards and will feature the highly anticipated offensive duo of Adam Henrique and offseason acquisition Taylor Hall. The rest of the lineup is comprised of prospects selected from New Jersey’s last two drafts in Blake Speers, Mike McLeod, and Nathan Bastian. Their defense will feature names most Devils fans will be more familiar with like John Moore, Jon Merrill, and top blue liner prospects like Steven Santini and Vojtech Mozik. Goaltenders Scott Wedgewood and 2015 second round pick Mackenzie Blackwood will be in net. The Habs aren’t necessarily bringing their A-team against the Devils. Outside of Brandon Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, and former Devil Bobby Farnham, tonight’s forward lineup for Montreal features mostly PTO invites, prospects, and AHL-bound journeymen. Their defense doesn’t have names that are any more familiar either, while goaltenders Mike Condon and Jeff Lindgren will share net minding duties.
Who to watch
Damon Severson…Keep a close eye on Severson because out of everyone on the Devils defense, he’s expected to take the biggest step forward. In the wake of sending Adam Larsson to the Edmonton Oilers, Severson is expected to help fill a large portion of the void left by Larsson’s departure. He’s being given a huge opportunity to play alongside Andy Greene, and will give coaching and management his first indication as to how truly ready he is for this kind of workload.
Blake Speers…The 19-year old winger is coming off a big performance at the Prospects Challenge. He co-led the Devils in goals (three) and was second among the team in points that weekend (four). He has a lot of momentum coming into training camp, and is going into his game tonight against the Flyers on a top-six role, playing with 2016 first round pick Mike McLeod and Joseph Blandisi. Speers is being given a huge opportunity to showcase himself and make it very difficult for the coaching staff and management to send him down early this year.
What to watch
Faceoff factor…The Devils were the second-worst faceoff team in the league last year, and their inefficiencies in the faceoff dot had a much larger impact on their regular season than it might seem. This is one part of the team’s game where the only way they can go is up and you have to think that Coach Hynes and Co. are weighing their options on the choices they have down the middle. The Devils forwards are nowhere near to being set in stone, and if a young Devils center thrives in a category like faceoffs early on this preseason, it will certainly be a development worth keeping your eye on moving forward. That all starts with a solid performance tonight.
Where to watch
TBD (both games)
When to watch
7:00pm EST (Devils Vs Flyers)
7:30pm EST (Devils Vs Canadians)