It's only been seven months, but it seems like forever since the New Jersey Devils were battling the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup final. New Jersey came up short in its quest for the fourth championship in franchise history, and it could be a while before it gets another opportunity as star forward Zach Parise accepted a 13-year, $98 million offer to return home to Minnesota. In addition, Martin Brodeur turns 41 years old in May and likely will retire after the 2013-14 season.
However, history is on the side of the Devils, who visit the Atlantic Division-rival New York Islanders on Saturday in the season opener for both clubs. When the NHL schedule was reduced to 48 games due to a labor dispute in 1994-95, New Jersey went on to capture its first Stanley Cup. The Islanders are hoping to break a few trends this season. New York has missed the playoffs each of the last five campaigns, and goalie Rick DiPietro has been limited to a total of 47 games over the past four seasons due to injuries.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG Plus 2 (New Jersey), MSG Plus (New York)
ABOUT THE DEVILS (2011-12: 48-28-6, 4th Atlantic Division): With Parise gone, New Jersey had several players capable of taking over the team captaincy. It selected defenseman Bryce Salvador over former NHL captains Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk. "He's a well-respected guy in this locker room," Elias said. "Everybody likes him and he always gives 100 percent on the ice. All the guys can take a lot from him." After watching Parise depart, the Devils were not about to let Travis Zajac follow suit as they signed the center to an eight-year, $56 million extension. New Jersey had the top-ranked penalty kill last season at 89.6 percent.
ABOUT THE ISLANDERS (2011-12: 34-37-11, 5th Atlantic Division): With PA Parenteau signing with Colorado over the summer, New York figures to replace him on the top line with Kyle Okposo. The 2007 first-round pick has yet to emerge as a star, although he scored a career-high 24 goals last season. The Islanders are hoping newcomer Brad Boyes can regain his 40-goal form after scoring only eight times in 65 games with Buffalo in 2011-12. The Lubomir Visnovsky saga continued Friday as New York suspended the defenseman for not reporting to the team. Visnovsky, who was acquired from Anaheim over the summer, stated he has no desire to play for the Isles and attempted to get the trade voided. The former All-Star requested to remain with his Kontinental Hockey League team in his native Slovakia but was denied.
1. The Devils assigned Mattias Tedenby to Albany of the American Hockey League, but 2012 first-round pick Stefan Matteau made the season-opening roster.
2. The Islanders are 0-2-2 in their last four season openers.
3. New Jersey C Adam Henrique still is several weeks away as he recovers from surgery to fix a broken left thumb.
PREDICTION: Devils 3, Islanders 2 (OT).