By Trevor Jahnke
Who’s on tap: In their first and only game of the week, the New Jersey Devils open up the 2013 season on the island against the New York Islanders.
What’s at stake: In both team’s first game of the year, both teams will look to get off to a fast start and begin the season with a divisional win.
Matchup to watch: Last year Ilya Kovalchuk played well against the Islanders, even notching a hat trick. It will be a tall task for the Isle’s d-corps to try to slow down the talented Russian.
The lockout is over and hockey is back ladies and gentlemen! The Devils are opening their season on the road, as they travel to Nassau Coliseum to open their season against Islanders, before their home opener on Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Last year, in the six games that the Devils and the Islanders played against each other, the Devils were victorious in four of those games. The Islanders have finished 5th in the Atlantic Division the past five seasons and have not landed a playoff spot since the 06-07 season. Both teams want to get off to a great start with only 48 games on the schedule.
The Islanders have some of the most promising young talent in the league with Kyle Okposo, Ryan Strome and John Tavares, which may one day give the Islanders one of the most intimidating lines in the NHL. Last season, Okposo and Tavares combined for a total of 126 points (Okposo contributed 24 goals and 21 assists while Tavares put up 31 goals and 50 assists).
Not to mention, Tavares has been keeping his skills sharp during the lockout, playing for Bern of the Swiss A League. He racked up 17 goals and 25 assists in 28 games.
Strome has been a force in OHL the past two years, scoring at least 30 goals in both seasons. Although Strome will probably be spending this season in the AHL, I would not be shocked at all if he plays in Uniondale before this shortened season is finished.
Evgeni Nabokov and Rick DiPietro will once again share the goaltending duties for the Isles this season. Nabokov will most likely take a majority of the starts again once DiPietro inevitably injures himself again.
New Jersey has a tough match up to open this season, but I think this friendly rivalry is a great way for both teams to get started. The Red and Black have to keep an eye out for some of the Islanders talented players, as well as former Devil Eric Boulton, who always seemed to play well against the Devils before joining the team last season (he notched a hat-trick against the Devils as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers).
Hockey’s Back! Enjoy the game!