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Game 1 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers - 10/3/2009

It's here, it's finally here! It's the season opener for the New Jersey Devils and they host the Philadelphia Flyers (1-0-0) at the Rock tonight.

Time: 7 PM EST  TV: MSG+ 2   Radio: 660 AM WFAN

Milestones: Martin Brodeur to play 1,000th NHL game.  Opening ceremony of Championship Plaza at 2 PM.

The games start to count now and they couldn't start of any bigger than the first two for the Devils: New Jersey's most hated rivals at the Rock.  Tonight, it's the lesser of the two most hated rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers.


The Flyers certainly got off to the right start to their season.  They defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 on the road, with Ray Emery earning his first shutout in his re-debut in the NHL.  Emery has been solid as you can get in net in preseason, so he's definitely feeling good.  Mike Richards and Jeff Carter got the power play goals (and very quickly in the second period on a double minor) to re-establish that, yes, they are great players and that, yes, Philadelphia is very good on special teams.

According to Travis Hughes' recap at Broad Street Hockey, not all was rosy for the Flyers.  They conceded far too many penalties, largely when pressed on defense.  Philly coach John Stevens surely can't be happy about his team handing Carolina - I swear I'm not making this up - 8 power plays lasting a total of 14:10.  OK, some of that was abbreviated, but 8 power plays against is just too much - even if the Flyers killed them all off. 

It's a Flyers weakness that the Devils would do well to exploit.  The Flyers are traveling up to the Rock and I doubt the team will suddenly become more disciplined in less than 24 hours.  So I hope Jacques Lemaire will emphasize the Devils to play up on the forecheck.  According to this post by Gulitti yesterday, Lemaire has been tinkering with the forecheck - though the Devils are still learning it.  Which is understandable to a point, it is the first game of the regular season, not everyone is going to be sharp and in mid-season form already.  Based on what I saw in the offseason, he's definitely not teaching the forechecker to hold back.  So I think the Devils will be able to get plenty of power play chances.  I don't think I need to say that it'll be important to convert on a few of them.

As far as a lineup is concerned, that's still not set in stone and it probably won't be fully revealed until just before gametime. Based on Gulitti's report of this morning's skate, the Devils faithful could very well see a lineup quite similar to Tuesday's preseason game against the Islanders.  Just switch out Brendan Shanahan for Jay Pandolfo.  That said, if there's any changes, it'll only be for the #6 defenseman spot and/or the fourth line.  Still, I think we'll likely see Cory Murphy with Bryce Salvador on defense, so Murphy will make his Devils debut in the regular season tonight.  Given the Flyers' history of being a tough and thuggish team, a fourth line of Andrew Peters, Rod Pelley, and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond may not be a necessarily bad idea. 

Update: Per Gulitti's latest post, Jay Pandolfo will play but Matt Halischuk might play.  Gulitti thinks it'll depend on who the Flyers place in their line up and I agree.  More goons for Philly mean Peters and Leblond plays. Otherwise, one of them sits for Halischuk - I'd guess Peters. Either way, Ilkka Pikkarainen and Andy Greene won't.

Regardless, here's what is certain.   Martin Brodeur will be in net to join Patrick Roy as the only NHL goaltenders to play 1,000+ career games.  Paul Martin and Johnny Oduya will lead a defense against a offensive-talent-laden Flyers squad featuring Richards, Carter, Danny Briere, the young James van Reimsdyk and Mika Pyorala. Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Jamie Langenbrunner get to lead the forwards against a Flyers blueline that now features Chris Pronger up top.  While the season won't be decided on Opening Night, it's definitely a big test against a rival right away.  At least on paper, it is.

Which makes tonight's game all the more exciting, in my opinion.  Check out Broad Street Hockey later on for the opposition's perspective.  I'll be at the Rock in my usual seat (Sec. 1, Row 16, Seat 5) and I invite all of you to cheer on the world-class hockey team that we call the New Jersey Devils.  Be it at the Rock, in front of your TV, while listening to the radio, and/or here when the GameThread goes up.   Go Devils!