Devils and Rangers Renew Rivalry Tonight, Devils Notebook

Some may say the NHL season hasn’t really truly begun until the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers renew their storied rivalry.   It will be the first time these teams meet since Adam Henrique’s series clincher in overtime last May, a game still celebrated by Devils fans going on none months later.  The story lines are numerous but let’s be honest here, the teams are far from the same as they were last season. Gone from last year’s rosters are Zach Parise, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Mike Rupp, Brandon Prust, Petr Sykora and Alexei Ponikarovsky. New to the mix are guys like Rick Nash, Darrell Powe, Bobby Butler, Krystofer Barch, Taylor Pyatt and Aaron Asham (although Asham was previously a Devil for one season).

While it certainly won’t be the same and the stakes aren’t nearly as high, it still will generate a lot of excitement tonight at the Prudential Center in Newark when these teams square off. The electricity in the building will certainly be there and the fans will be loud and it will truly feel like one of those playoff-type regular season games everyone enjoys. It certainly won’t cure all the ill wills of the recent lockout, but it will ease the recovery process some for the fans.

Will it be a brawl at the beginning or a high scoring affair?  Most likely, somewhere in between, but sit back and enjoy it!!!

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The Devils, like many teams have struggled for consistency in the first eight games. A pleasant surprise continues to be the production generated from the CBGB line, carrying over from their success in last years playoffs. Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier continue to not only hold their own against their competition but have been scoring pretty regularly as well. Look at Sunday’s 3-0 triumph over the Islanders and you will see the first two goals, including the PP game winner) were scored by Bernier. Gionta has been an integral part of the PK unit and Carter has chipped in there too. When you add it all up, it’s almost hard to fathom how well these guys have done considering one was a career minor leaguer (Gionta), one was a waiver claim (Carter) and the other was a training camp tryout last season (Bernier).  It’s hard to create these stories but it certainly isn’t hard to appreciate these players and their blue collar approach and work ethic and they are very easy to root for.

If the CBGB line can continue its success it gives the Devils an edge in depth as the teams that get production from all four lines seem to be the ones that have the most success come playoff time. It is no coincidence their performance in the 2012 playoffs helped lead the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals.

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It is definitely a good thing Adam Larsson returned to the lineup both for the short and long-term benefits of the franchise. Simply put, the Devils don’t have anyone on the current roster that can match the vision and play-making potential of the young Swede. I see no reason for him to be out of the lineup going forward and expect growth to continue in the mold of Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Larsson should be a stalwart on the Devils blue line for many years to come.

On the other hand, I’m a little perplexed by the fact that Stefan Matteau has been kept around. If the plan was to let him play five games and have him hang around a little longer, wouldn’t he have been better served to play in three or four games, then practice and get a last chance to work on what he’s learned in a game before he goes back to juniors?  I see the benefit to an extent of him practicing with the team but the window of  that benefit seems to be closing in my opinion as the 18 year old simply needs to play. If the plan is to keep him long-term in the NHL, then he needs to get back in the lineup to experience things like tonight’s rivalry.  Overall, I think the best thing for both him and the team long-term is to send him back to the juniors, which may indeed be the plan after watching the intensity of tonght’s matchup.  Remember, in GM Lou Lamoriello I trust, so I have little doubt he has a plan for Matteau.

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That’s all for this installment, I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life, so it’s been tough to write much, but I threw together this one in anticipation of tonight’s matchup, looking for Ilya Kovalchuk to rise to the occasion and have a big game tonight.

Also, will try to send out some more random NJ Devils facts on the Twitter feed in the coming days/weeks, etc, so keep an eye on that and follow me for my Devils ramblings @LEVINAKL.

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About the Author: Father, Husband, Fantasy Sports junkie, Section 3 season ticket holder - NJ Devils, New Jersey Devils Writer - HockeyIndependent.com

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