The New Jersey Devil’s off-season was … odd.
While there were no “WHAT DO YOU MEAN KOVALCHUK RETIRED?” sagas this summer, Lou Lamoriello did pick up several veteran players including Mike Cammalleri, Marty Havlat, Scott Clemmensen (because the Devils love former Devils players). Some Devils were let go or bought out, including Anton Volchenkov (godspeed, A-Train), Mark Fayne (Oilers) and telling Marty Brodeur to go for his 700th win someplace else… Lamoriello also invited to camp former Canadien Tomas Kaberle, Ruslan Fedontenko, some guy named Scott Gomez, and Jordin Tootoo in an attempt to see if he can possibly get any magic out of them like he did with ‘The Petr Sykora Reclamation Process” of a few years ago.
In “the usual Devils news” Cam Janssen is engaging in his yearly attempts to stay in Newark full-time and not spend most of the year in Albany playing for the Devils AHL team the Albany Devils.
The Devils, unlike most teams, don’t have practices that are opened to the public, so the time most Devils fans get to see all of their new acquisitions are during televised pre-season games. The first game was on Sept. 22 in the most famous arena in the world, Madison Square Garden and their second road game was in what will soon be the Islanders new home in the Barclay’s Center on Sept. 26.
This is the first year in the last few years that the Rangers have their pre-season start in MSG, mostly due to the renovations on the Garden. Michael Ryder scored twice and second year rookie Reid Boucher who was in Albany most of last year except when he scored one of the 4 times in the Devils’ dreaded shootout season (a record 0-13) also scored the first goal of the game. King Henrik faced only 13 shots, giving up 2 goals, before both he and Scott Clemmensen changed in the middle of the second period. Clemmensen gave up 2 goals on 10 shots to Carl Hagelin and former Lightning Ryan Malone who recently got a 1 year deal with the Rangers.
Cam Talbot, who played college hockey at the University of Alabama in Huntsville because hockey is alive in the South, was Lundqvist’s relief and he gave up goals to Ryder, Eric Gelinas (the duo of Elias & Havlat got their first assists of the season) and Adam Henrique scored with 51.7 seconds left in a tied game in the 3rd period. Keith Kinkaid was Clemmensen’s relief and he gave up goals to Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast in the third period.
It was my first time in The World’s Most Famous Arena ™ and while I wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped to be, it was still a great arena and everyone was very helpful (including two different ushers who wanted to make sure I knew I was on the Rangers side for pre-skate. Sadly, my reason for being there, Kevin Klein didn’t play that night but there will still be time to watch him when the Rangers play in Newark on Tues’ Oct 21st or April 7th) and it was a great night for hockey.
On Friday night Sept. 26 the the attendance at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center for a pre-season hockey game was 11,823. In anticipation of the influx of Islanders fans to the arena, LIRR Service had been extended with extra service to Jamaica (Queens), Babylon (Long Island), and childhood home of Billy Joel & my grandfather in Hicksville (Long Island).
This was the second time the Devils & Islanders played in Brooklyn and having been to both, they still had some growing pains (including the staff not understanding what pre-skate was) but seats had been added to the section that hangs over the ice and this year there were more Islanders pop up tables and a lot more food options to be had then in 2013. While there was some grumbling around the fans in the beginning of the game about how this wasn’t exactly like “home” by the end of the game, many of the Islanders fans seemed extremely happy with the arena.
This was the first victory for the Islanders in what will be their new home starting in the 2015-2016 season. This means if you want to say goodbye to one of the oddest, weirdest and wonderfulest hockey arenas in the world, Nassau Coliseum, you should plan a visit this winter (or spring! or Hockey Gods willing summer!) this season. To read what it means to one Brooklynite Islanders fan, you should read “New York City is not my home. Nassau is where I was born a hockey fan.”
Marty Havlat scored for the Devils & Michael Ryder tied it on a power play in the third against Isles goalie Chad Johnson. Ryan Pulock and Colin McDonald scored first period goals for the Islanders against Kinkaid. The game went to dreaded shootout and the only Devil to score was Reid Boucher, because of course it was as he seems to be the only Devil who can score in the shootout. Kyle Okposo and my second favorite Bridgeport Sound Tiger of all time, Brock Nelson scored to win. Marty Havlat was stopped by Chad Johnson to seal the shootout win 3-2.
According to a Rich Chere article with the title “Devil’s Don’t Know Whether to Laugh or Cry About Shootouts At This Point” which states every frustration Devils fans (and the Devils) feel at this point, even this early in the pre-season:
Adam Henrique lost the luck off his stick and Martin Havlat couldn’t send it to a fourth round.
“That was brutal by (Havlat) and Rico (Henrique),” Patrik Elias said jokingly. “I told Bouch they’ve got to make the rule they have in international play so one guy can go three times.”
It seems with a season of Jagr, Elias, Marek Zidlicky, Marty Havlat and Kaberle if he makes the team, it will be another year of dry, snarky Czech humor to stay afloat this season for the Devils. However, with a very strong showing from former Devil Scott Gomez where he was possibly one of the best players on the ice during the Islanders game and him scoring 2 powerplay goals Sunday night against the Flyers, perhaps some of the magic that makes the New Jersey Devils be the New Jersey Devils might be coming their way this season.