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The last time we saw Devils hockey was on April 11th, 2014. The Devils ended the regular season with a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers. The NHL preseason officially begins for the New Jersey Devils tonight as they face off against the Boston Bruins. Tonight’s squad playing in white, red, and black features a balanced blend of offseason acquisitions, returning veterans, and rookie hopefuls. They’ll be playing against a Bruins team that experienced its own summer of changes on their roster and front office. Tonight will give both teams a highly anticipated first look at some of the new players they signed, traded for, and drafted the last couple of months, and how they mesh with their team’s core players and more tenured prospects.
The Bruins aren’t necessarily deploying their A-squad tonight. The majority of their forwards comprise of young veteran AHLers, along with a few overseas signings, NHL veterans and recent draftees. Among the notable youngsters Boston’s lineup features tonight, Ryan Spooner and 2015 first round pick Jake DeBrusk (14th overall) stand out in particular, and could separate themselves from the rest of the pack with good showings. Some offseason acquisitions the Bruins are playing tonight are Jimmy Hayes, who had a Matt Beleskey-like season (stats-wise) with the Panthers last year, and Zac Rinaldo, who’s reputed for his on-ice antics and physical play.
In similar fashion to the offense, half of Boston’s defensive lineup is formed by veteran AHLers. Like the Devils, Boston will play two defensemen they drafted back in June. We should be familiar with 13th overall pick Jakub Zboril, who scored a big goal for the Bruins in their comeback victory over the Devils at the Prospects Challenge last weekend in Buffalo. The Bruins will also be playing Brandon Carlo. The 6’5 defenseman from Colorado Springs, Colorado was drafted 37th overall, and like Zboril, will make his NHL preseason debut tonight. Another defenseman to keep an eye on for the Bruins is 27-year old Matt Irwin. He spent the past three seasons in San Jose, where he tallied 16 goals and 50 points in 153 games played over the last three seasons.
Boston’s goaltending tandem is similar to the Devils tonight. After earning a tryout with the Bruins, Jonas Gustavsson and AHL goaltender Jeremy Smith will defend Boston’s crease tonight. Gustavsson only appeared in seven contests for the Red Wings last season. He went 3-3-1 and posted a 2.56 GAA and .911 SV%. Smith has played the past four seasons in the AHL with three different teams. Last year with the Providence Bruins, Smith appeared in 39 contests and went 22-11-5. He had a 2.05 GAA and .933 SV%.
Who to watch
John Quenneville…I was very high on Quenneville last weekend and think he can really be a dark horse to make this Devils team. The Devils 30th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft is starting on New Jersey’s top line playing as a left wing with Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri. It’s encouraging how John Hynes is putting Quenneville in an opportune position like this. Although he normally plays center, how he plays tonight could shed some insight on Quenneville’s adaptability as a forward to play more than one position.
Ryan Spooner…The 23-year old has struggled to stick with the Bruins in recent years. After a good showing during stints in the NHL and AHL last year, along with the rash of roster changes the Bruins underwent this summer, Spooner could slip through the cracks and make Boston’s opening night roster. He’ll be on a line with Jimmy Hayes and Brett Connolly, which looks to be the offensive trio that will see most of the action tonight for Boston.
What to watch
Early chemistry…The Devils lineup features nine players (six forwards, three defensemen) that are making their inaugural debut for the organization. John Hynes is properly utilizing the preseason to see how the team’s newer assets mesh with each other and the team’s prospects and rookie players. Ultimately, this could wind up being a boom or bust game for the Devils depending on how this lineup works with each other.
Where to watch
When to watch