Yesterday the New Jersey Devils announced on their official Twitter account something that may take a while for Devils fans to get used to. It was that Cory Schneider would start in goal when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Devils in their regular season opener Thursday night at the Consol Energy Center.
The last time the Devils opened their season without Martin Brodeur leading them onto the ice was back when Pete DeBoer probably had hair, Adam Henrique was being potty trained and the Devils had no Stanley Cups.
It was October 6, 1993 and the Devils defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning with Chis Terreri in net.
With back-to-back games for the Devils on Thursday and Friday, it was decided that Brodeur would benefit from an extra day of practice following the death of his father, Denis Brodeur Sr., which caused him to miss a few days of practice.
Head Coach Pete DeBoer originally gave the nod to Brodeur for Thursday but upon switching his goaltenders, he said it had more to do with the physical aspect than the emotional one of starting at home. Possibly for Brodeur’s last time.
“It was more the timing that he could get an extra day to prepare after what he’s been through,” DeBoer told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.
It will be the first time Schneider, acquired by New Jersey on June 30th from Vancouver, will face Sidney Crosby as part of the Devils squad and will likely be tested early and often by the Penguins Captain.Crosby managed one goal and two assists in his three games against New Jersey last season. He finished the season with 56 points in 36 games.
Schneider won’t be the only Devil making his regular-season debut in red, black and white tonight. Ryane Clowe, Damien Brunner and Michael Ryder are a few others. But most significant to the city of Pittsburgh will be the return of Jaromir Jagr.
Jagr was drafted by the Penguins in 1990 where he remained until 2001 when he was traded to the Washington Capitals. An NHL-trotter stopping in New York, Philadelphia, Dallas and Boston before landing in New Jersey, it was with the Penguins that Jagr won his two Stanley Cups.
“The fans, they’re going to boo me, no question about it,” Jagr said of returning to Pittsburgh. “ That’s OK. I got used to it already.”
The oldest member of the Devils roster will play alongside with Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique. Jagr, who is 18-years Henrique’s senior joked about playing with the young guys who he seems to have clicked with despite missing all of the preseason action.
“Sometimes the younger guys try to pass me the puck all the time,” the 41-year old winger said. “So I told them, I’ve had the puck enough for the last 25 years. I don’t need it that much.”
Having the puck is one thing, but Jagr has been successful throughout his entire career with putting the puck where it needs to go.
Jagr’s 681 goals and 1007 assists is enough to place him first on the NHL’s active leading scorers list. His fellow Czech teammate, Patrik Elias is currently sitting in eighth on that list.
From a Devils perspective, hearing boo’s rain down from the crowd at Consol Energy Center tonight would be ideal. Booing from the home crowd when you're the visitor usually means you’re doing something right and the Devils have a lot to prove when they hit the ice.
They will be proving to themselves and everyone around the league that they aren’t the lay down and die team everyone is expecting them to be without Ilya Kovalchuk in the lineup.
"I think we're capable of winning a Stanley Cup. We go into every season with that mindset,” coach Pete DeBoer said heading into the 2013-2014 season.
Tonight’s the night they start working towards it.
Devils scratches: Mark Fayne, Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby, Rostislav Olesz.
Penguins scratches: James Neal, Kris Letang.
Devils line combinations: :
Patrik Elias was activated off of the IR and will be in tonight's lineup.
Alexander Urbom was claimed off of waivers by the Washington Capitals. Urbom played 14 games with New Jersey since the 2010-2011 season, scoring two goals in that time.
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