The New Jersey Devils have watched the Philadelphia Flyers' first two games of this shortened NHL season, so they know the Flyers that come to Prudential Center Tuesday night for New Jersey's home opener will be a desperate bunch, even though we have barely scratched the surface of this 2013 season.
For Devils fans, the hope is that their team also watched tape of the Los Angeles Kings' home opener, when the Kings received their Stanley Cup rings prior to the game against the Chicago Blackhawks and then were flatter than week old beer in the ensuing game. The Devils won't have anywhere near as elaborate a ceremony at Prudential Center, but the 2011-12 Eastern Conference Championship banner will be raised, which should bring at least some fan excitement to the arena
Paying attention to the details will be very important to ensure New Jersey opens 2-0.
“This is going to be a long road of daily improvement,” coach Pete DeBoer told reporters. “The nice thing for me was the foundation of our team play was pretty solid and we can build off that. Last year, you’re starting basically from scratch, so it’s nice that foundation is there and it will allow us to get into some of the details of the game in certain areas a little quicker.”
True, the Devils did not have their "A" game in the season opener against the New York Islanders, but they had Martin Brodeur in goal, a strong defensive effort ,and enough timely scoring to win the game, 2-1.
Entering Tuesday's game, the Devils also have benefited from more practice time to get everyone into better shape. The Flyers lost to the Penguins at home Saturday and then dropped a road game to the Sabres Sunday. The Flyers' weren't terrible in the two games, but their special teams struggled and the offense hasn't exactly been clicking, either.
“We were pretty fortunate in the way the schedule laid out for us when you look at some of the other schedules some of the teams have,” DeBoer said. “You pay the bill for that later, though. There’s catch-up along the way and we’re going get jammed at some point or another because of the luxury of a little slower start. But from a coaching perspective, it’s been nice."
Devils players were looking forward to the home opener and to have the opportunity to play before their fans once again. The support they received during the run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals was considerable and Brodeur told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record that he hopes the long lockout by the owners hasn't drained any of the fans' enthusiasm.
“Understandably, the fans were hurt by the whole lockout thing,” Brodeur said. “It’s something that’s not easy on us, the players, or the owners. But I think what it hurts the most is the people that are watching and supporting us because that’s what they do. All their lives, they enjoy watching. … The rivalries we have around here are something special and if you take that away from them definitely you are going to hurt some people.
“But most of the people that are big hockey fans, they’ll come back and they’ll enjoy what we’re going to do out there," Brodeur continued. "These processes always paid off in the long run to a certain extent to better the game and I think with the agreement the owners were able to get from us, especially for the Devils, we’re in a (better) position than we were a year ago, as far as being able to stay afloat and grow. And I think that’s what your fan wants, is your organization to grow to be a great organization."
How the lockout impacted the Devils' long-term growth remains to be seen, but the pressing matter right now is coming up with an effort against a snarly group of Flyers that puts two more points in the standings, while also having another shot at defeating a rival.
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