For hockey fans, although the summer lasts only two months, it seems like an eternity since we have seen a live game, heard a goal horn or witnessed an incredible deke followed by a top-shelf goal. It gives us plenty of time to ponder the upcoming season and how many days until our heroes are back on ice. For the New Jersey Devils and their fans, they are still recovering from a double-whammy of heartbreak — losing in the Finals to the Los Angeles Kings and then losing their captain Zach Parise via free agency.
But there is always next season, and in October the promise of another run at Lord Stanley’s Cup will rise up and captivate us night in and night out. Here are the five most intriguing games that New Jersey will play in the upcoming season — yes there will be a season.
1) October 17 vs. NY Rangers (Game 3) – the Devils will face-off against their biggest rivals for the first time since Adam Henrique eliminated them in overtime of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Some of the names on both rosters will have changed by the time the puck drops that day, but you can be sure there will be some fireworks; it could be a line brawl in the opening seconds, maybe a scoreless goalie-duel or it could be another war of words between the two coaches. Regardless, both teams will be looking to get an early edge on their rival in the standings in the latest installment of the Hudson River Rivalry.
2) November 11 vs. Minnesota (Game 12) – After 502 games with the Devils (194 goals/410 points) Parise will play his first game against New Jersey at the Prudential Center. Knowing Devils’ fans, expect the 28-year-old to be booed every time he touches the puck or his name is announced by the PA announcer. For Parise it will probably be strange to play against so many good friends and ex-teammates, but for the Devils’ players it will be less weird because there is only one Parise and 19 other Wild players to contend with.
3) December 21 vs. Philadelphia (Game 30) – Just in time for Christmas, the Devils and Flyers will finish up a home-and-home set; in fact it will be the third time the two teams play in a span of 10 days. New Jersey will start a five-game road trip on December 11 in Philly, followed by stops in Florida, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Philly again on Dec. 19. After making such quick work of the Flyers in the second round last year, and three games in such a short period of time, expect that the two teams will battle for every inch of open ice (nothing new). They played some wild games last season, and the 2012-13 season will be no different — hopefully for Brayden Schenn he doesn’t try to challenge Ilya Kovalchuk to another fight, (maybe big brother steps in) because last season that didn’t work out too well: WATCH THE CARNAGE HERE
4) February 9 vs. Los Angeles (Game 51) – With football season just ending (Super Bowl 47 on Feb. 3), many of the casual fans will be back and starving for some live action. NBC might even televise this game — the only rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup Finalists in 2012-13. My money is on Johan Hedberg starting this game in the Devils crease: he was 2-0 against them during last regular season, and coach Pete DeBoer might want to give him the afternoon start rather than Martin Brodeur who will likely play in the next two games (vs. NYR & Phil).
5) March 21 at Montreal (Game 71) – The playoffs will be just over the horizon and both teams should be vying for a playoff spot. Brodeur always excels in his home Province and it will also be the second match-up between the two squads in five days. Who knows what either team will look like by then, maybe Scott Gomez will even be in the lineup for the Habs — or the Devils! If the following season is Brodeur’s last, this will be one of his last appearances in Montreal as a player. I may even make an appearance that day in the arena to celebrate my 37th birthday.
Dan Rice can be reached via Twitter: @DRdiablo321 or via email: email@example.com