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Game Preview #1: New Jersey Devils @ Philadelphia Flyers

The Devils kick off the 2022-23 season with a date in Philadelphia against the Flyers. Can the Devils start the season off on the right foot with a win over their division rivals?

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Philadelphia Flyers
Jack Hughes will play this evening. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Sean Couturier will not.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (0-0-0, 0 points) visit the Philadelphia Flyers (0-0-0, 0 points). SB Nation Blog: Broad Street Hockey

The Time: 7:00 PM ET

The Broadcast: TV - ESPN+ and Hulu Exclusive. RADIO - Devils Hockey Network (Access through the official Devils app)

The last Devils game

The Devils finished up the preseason on Saturday evening with a 5-3 win in Boston over the Bruins. Alexander Holtz, Dawson Mercer, Jack Hughes, Yegor Sharangovich, and Tomas Tatar were the goal scorers for New Jersey while Mackenzie Blackwood was solid in net for the half game he played. I highlighted these in my recap, while pointing out exactly what the Devils need to work on going forward.

The last Flyers game

Philadelphia finished their preseason back on October 4th with a 4-3 OT loss to the New York Islanders. Goal scoring, or lack thereof, was a common theme for the Flyers this preseason, as they only found the back of the net 8 times in 6 games.

Scott Laughton, Owen Tippett, and Tanner Laczynski were the goal scorers for Philadelphia.

The last Devils-Flyers game

The Devils and Flyers last met on December 14th, 2021, as Philadelphia managed to avoid a season-series sweep against the Devils with a 6-1 victory at Wells Fargo Center. Cam Atkinson was one of many opposing players last season who managed to record a hat trick against the Devils, as he accomplished this feat on this night. The recently retired P.K. Subban scored the only goal for New Jersey that evening.

As you may recall, this game was a debacle from a Devils perspective for a variety of reasons. For starters, Lindy Ruff started Mackenzie Blackwood in net that night despite being the sickest player on the team. Other players were sick as well as there was a bug going around the team at the time. Three other players were in COVID protocol as there was an uptick in COVID cases around that time last year.

Other than illnesses, we saw the usual stuff that we saw from last year’s Devils team. It was not pretty. The Devils being careless with the puck and making bad decisions? Yep. Atrocious special teams? Yep. Hopefully, we don’t see a repeat of these types of mistakes and these types of games, which we saw all too often last season.

What do the Flyers bring to the table?

Not much.

The Flyers biggest change this offseason was the hire of John Tortorella as head coach. Tortorella has been around long enough where you know exactly what type of coach he is and the playing style his teams will have.

Torts isn’t a perfect coach by any means. He has a tendency to eventually wear out his welcome wherever he goes. However, he is a good hockey coach and his teams tend to be successful more often than not. You know with a John Tortorella coached team that they will be structured, disciplined, and they will not be a whole lot of fun to play against. They will block shots, play defense, drag you through the mud, and make you earn every inch. And boy, will this Flyers team need to do all of that and then some because have you seen this roster?

Sean Couturier is expected to miss a significant portion of this season with a back injury. Ryan Ellis will miss the entire season with an injury to his pelvic region and his career is in serious jeopardy. The rest of the roster features players now on the wrong side of 30 (Kevin Hayes, James van Riemsdyk, and Cam Atkinson), young players trying to establish themselves as NHL regulars, and Rasmus Ristolainen in Year 1 of an ill-advised 5-year deal. Travis Konecny might be their best player at the moment.

Their biggest player acquisition this offseason was the trade for Tony DeAngelo, who will provide offense from the blue line. The problem with Tony DeAngelo, aside from all of the extracurricular stuff, is that he also likely give back everything he provides offensively with poor defensive play. He’s certainly a questionable fit for a Tortorella-coached team. The Flyers couldn’t (or wouldn’t) clear the cap space for Johnny Gaudreau who practically begged to go to his hometown Flyers, but they found the space to give four years of term to Nic Deslauriers, who is good at punching faces and literally nothing else. Justin Braun is back though, and he’s a solid enough third pairing defenseman that I suggested the Devils should look into signing him.

Philadelphia will likely be the worst team in the Metropolitan Division and one of the worst teams in the entire NHL this season, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be a pushover. Not by any means. I already mentioned how Torts-coaches team play historically and I hope the Devils are catching the Flyers early enough in the season where they can simply outrun and outgun them because the defensive structure isn’t 100 percent in place yet for Philadelphia. I expect the Flyers to be the type of team to play like Torts-coached teams typically do because they can’t compete any other way. Ideally, the Devils get out to a comfortable lead against them, avoid any unnecessary shenanigans, and pick up a much-needed two points.

Tonight’s Lineups

The Devils did get some welcome news on Tuesday as Nico Hischier returned to practice. He did leave practice early, although that was part of the plan as the Devils try to ease him back in to hockey activities. Hischier also participated in Wednesday’s practice, although he told the media afterwards that his status for the opener remains up in the air. For now, consider him 50-50 whether or not he plays.

You can see the line combinations the Devils went with below at Wednesday’s practice, courtesy of Amanda Stein.

As for Philadelphia, here’s what they are rolling with.

Ristolainen left practice early and didn’t return, so his status is unknown. Cam Atkinson is listed as day-to-day and will not play.

ESPN+ and Hulu Exclusive

As a reminder, tonight’s game is exclusive to ESPN+ and Hulu subscribers. You can subscribe at the link here if you have not done so already. Do not ask for illegal stream links in the comments as that is frowned upon and those comments will be deleted.

John Buccigross and Ray Ferraro will be on the call of this game, with the excellent Emily Kaplan between the benches. Considering the alternatives of who could be calling the game instead, I will consider this a major win as the Devils play their first of seven games exclusive to the ESPN family of networks this season.

Final Thoughts

What do you think about tonight’s matchup? Can the Devils get off to a good start with a win over the Second Rate Rivals? Will Nico Hischier return to the Devils lineup? Should he?Who do you want to see draw into the lineup and get the start in net? What are the keys to the game for you? Will the Flyers be as awful as I expect them to be? Please feel free to leave a comment below and thank you for reading!

Update from Morning Skate

Mackenzie Blackwood is in the starter’s net and appears to be the starter this evening. Nico Hischier is on the ice again for the morning skate.

Update #2

No Nico Hischier tonight