Devils vs. Islanders 1/19/13: Isles Open Up At Home
The 2012-13 NHL season commences today with 13 games in total taking place. More importantly, the New York Islanders will have their fourth consecutive home-opener against last season's Eastern Conference Champions, the New Jersey Devils.
But with a 48-game season on the horizon and a roster full of fresh faces, the Islanders, as well as the fans, can't help but repeat the phrase, "Anything can happen."
After taking the 6th seed in the East last season and beating the New York Rangers for the Eastern Conference Finals, the Devils lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the red hot Los Angeles Kings. During the offseason, their roster was quite shaken up when team captain and superstar, Zach Parise, signed a 13-year contract with the Minnesota Wild.
Although losing Parise will be a humongous adjustment for the New Jersey organization, they have a lot of top talent players to fill the void.
On Thursday, Bryce Salvador, the veteran defenseman, was named the new captain of the Devils. Last season, Salvador played all 82 games for the first time in his career, tallied his 100th career point, and led the team with a career high +18 rating.
But to once again be a competitive team in the Atlantic Division, the Devils must also obtain stellar performances from winger Ilya Kovalchuk and veteran net minder Martin Brodeur.
Kovalchuk will be ready for action tonight, just coming back from a stint in the Russian league, as well as scoring 83 points last season. Brodeur, despite his timeless age, must continue to play decent net if the Devils want to continue to be an Eastern Conference threat. (Photo Credit: Jamie Kellner/Flickr)
But what can we expect from the Islanders on the first game of the season? Do they have what it takes to defeat the reigning Eastern Conference champs on opening night?
After a disappointing 2012 season, the Isles will need to play consistent hockey each time they take the ice. Starting the abbreviated season off with a good streak is imperative, so expect the Isles to be hungry enough to steal 2 division points.
Coming off of a career high 81 point season, all eyes will be on John Tavares. Joining his teammate and captain, Mark Streit, to play in the Swiss league during the lockout, 91 will be the hero more often than not this season (Photo Credit: Robert Kowal/Flickr).
Matt Moulson is also set to be a key factor in Islander success. Matt has proven himself as a player who knows exactly where to be at the right time, now having three consecutive 30+ goal seasons with the Isles.
Furthermore, forwards Casey Cizikas and David Ullstrom are ready to play on the third and fourth line, after playing in Bridgeport together this season. And with the addition of Brad Boyes, Eric Boulton and Colin McDonald, the Islanders depth is looking like a force to be reckoned with.
The blue line will also have to be in full effect tonight. In addition to Streit, the Isles have the popular duo of Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald, as well as newcomers Radek Martinek, Matt Carkner and Thomas Hickey.
Lubomir Visnovsky has not yet reported to the Islanders and has therefore been suspended. According to various reports, he will make it to Long Island eventually, as he is dealing with a personal issue. As for tonight's game, don't expect to see him in blue and orange.
Although Rick DiPietro is currently healthy, it is widely speculated that goaltender Evgeni Nabakov will get the the start tonight. Last season, Nabby proved himself to be a worthy starting goalie for the Isles, recording a .914 save percentage over 42 games.
Hockey is definitely back and the Islanders seem ready to take this post-lockout season by the reins. Tonight, the Nassau Coliseum is the stage for the season opener between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders.
Let's Go Islanders!
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