Welcome back to regular season hockey, Devils fans. It’s been a long wait, but now the attention shifts to the 82-game grind. There is no time for the Devils to mess around in proving they are still a playoff team. Every shift counts starting tonight.
The Time: 1:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+
Bad Luck: The Devils had their first major injury in practice on Thursday, when Jesper Bratt broke his jaw. Bratt had been expected to play on the second line with Marcus Johansson and Pavel Zacha, and the success of that line was supposed to be vital to the offensive efficacy of the Devils in the early season. Hopefully, Bratt stays in high spirits despite his injury, so when he returns in a few weeks he can provide the scoring boost he is capable of.
Lines: These were the practice lines yesterday:
Jean-Sebastien Dea has been inserted into the lineup. From what I can tell about his game, he was an offensive threat in juniors and has been working on rounding out his game in the AHL, especially with penalty killing. Hopefully we get a chance to see both sides of his game today, as Pittsburgh viewed him as an NHL-caliber player, but unfortunately (for them) did not have any room on the roster for him.
Mirco Mueller: The Devils have a new player listed on the first pairing on the left side. Mirco Mueller is being given the chance to show that he can be at least a temporary successor to Andy Greene in this spot. He will have a hell of a first test in Connor McDavid tonight. Fortunately for the Devils, the Oilers do not seem to have very much scoring depth. Beyond Leon Draisaitl on the second line, there isn’t a whole lot for Edmonton. Milan Lucic’s career is in freefall, and Jesse Puljujarvi did not look like a fourth overall pick last year. If the Devils do manage to limit the damage from the Edmonton top line, they could be in business to win the game. But first, Mirco Mueller needs to be very ready for Connor McDavid’s speed, because the game will not be pretty if he is not ready.
The Return of the MVP: By far, the thing I am most excited to see starting today is Taylor Hall doing his thing every night (and day). With a healthy Kyle Palmieri and a year-older Nico Hischier, the first line must lead the New Jersey Devils this year. But even if Taylor Hall doesn’t get over 90 points again this season, then hopefully Hischier improves to 60 or 70 himself. And I am hopeful for Nico this year. He might not have put on quite enough weight yet, but he is still a teenager for three months. He has already exceeded expectations, and I think that is going to continue into this season. I expect them to play mostly against Oscar Klefbom and former Devil Adam Larsson today, and hopefully Larsson does not give our top line too many fits, and Hall can improve his scoring against his former team (two points in four games before today).
The New Second Line: Without Bratt in the lineup, Stefan Noesen has been promoted from the fourth line to the second. I like this choice, as this line could be hard to take the puck away from once they are in the offensive zone. While I would still rather see Bratt in the lineup, Noesen also puts the puck on net more often. I expect to see this line create space with its passing, and hopefully a redirected centering pass finds its way into the net today.
The Captain on the Second Pairing: Andy Greene will find himself next to Damon Severson at the start of today’s game, rather than his last season pairing of Sami Vatanen. On one hand, I do not think Mueller is close to ready for first pairing matchups. On the other hand, I like Greene and Severson a lot more than I do Greene and Vatanen. Hopefully this pairing will salvage what is is left of Andy Greene’s game, and brings Damon Severson’s game back to life. For the captain, not being inundated with defensive some starts should be a welcome change.
After the Game: MSG+ will be airing the first two episodes of Behind the Glass: New Jersey Devils Training Camp. For those who want to check out that series, just stay on MSG+ after game coverage today. Hopefully, people are sticking around after a win.
The Goalies: Keith Kinkaid will get the start for the New Jersey Devils today, and Cam Talbot will get the start for the Edmonton Oilers. Kinkaid was great for us down the stretch last season, and while I think Schneider will be back for his job in due time, Kinkaid has his chance to remind us of his case that he is not a mere backup in our season opener. Hopefully, he’s on his game.
Your Thoughts: Who are you most looking at tonight? How excited are you for the return of hockey? How do you feel about playing this game in Europe? Do you think Mirco Mueller can be up to the task against the Edmonton top line? Is there anything else you want to note that I missed? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.