Is it October Yet? Yes!

The 2014-15 NHL season kicks off this week with a slate of games on Wednesday, October 8 including Montreal-Toronto, Philly-Boston, Vancouver-Calgary and San Jose-Los Angeles. The Sharks versus Kings game will see the Kings raising their 2014 Stanley Cup banner to the rafters of the Staples Center as they begin their journey to repeat as champs. The Flyers-Bruins game will be televised on NBC Sports Network as part of its “Wednesday Night Rivalry” and the Kings-Sharks game will also be shown on NBCSN later that night. Thursday is the night Devils fans have been waiting for since last April as the Devils get back in action against the Flyers in an immediate test for the revamped Devils’ lineup.

Not only is the Thursday game at Philadelphia (7 PM, MSG Plus) a rivalry game right off the bat (which should definitely ramp up the intensity), but it is also a test against a team that made the playoffs last season. One factor to look at is that Philly will have played the night before while the Devils are coming in cold for their season opener. Will New Jersey be the fresher team, or will the Flyers, with a game under their belt, be more amped up for the game? Either way, the teams have faced off twice this preseason, splitting the two games (the Flyers won 4-0 at Wells Fargo Center, while the Devils picked up a 3-1 win on their home ice at Prudential Center). While the preseason shows little in how a team will perform chemistry-wise for the upcoming season (it is mostly guys fighting for roster spots and tuning up for the coming season, thus most of the analysis is looking inward and not at your opponent). Now, with rosters set, the Devils begin their 2014-15 journey to (hopefully) a place in the Stanley Cup playoffs and a run deep into June.

The team continues its road trip to open the season, traveling to Sunrise to take on the Florida Panthers on Saturday, October 11. They then enjoy a few days off in the Florida sun until moving across the state to Tampa to take on the Lightning on Tuesday, October 14. They then travel north to our nation’s capital to take on Washington on Thursday, October 16. After leaving DC, the Devils will finally play their first home game of the season on Saturday, October 18 at 7 PM against San Jose. For anyone going to the game, there will be a Fan Fest in Championship Plaza starting at 3 PM.

When the Devils take the ice, they will have a slightly different look from last year. Free agents Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat join Jordin Tootoo (the former Nashville Predator and Detroit Red Wing who made the team out of training camp) as newcomers to the Devils forward ranks. On defense, Damon Severson adds to an already balanced group of defensemen. Goaltending is where the real changes have come. The legendary Martin Brodeur will not be starting in goal for the New Jersey Devils on opening night for the first time in about two decades. Instead, Cory Schneider will, for the first time in his career, get the chance to be the undisputed number one for his team. He will be backed up by the returning Scott Clemmensen, who was brought back to New Jersey as a free agent.

Getting back to the schedule for a moment, some key dates for the Devils include October 21 when the Rangers visit Prudential Center for the first time this regular season. Friday, October 24 against the Dallas Stars will see the Devils honor former goaltender and long-time broadcaster Glenn “Chico” Resch with “Chico Resch Night.” The Devils will do their Western Canadian road trip starting on November 18 when they travel to Winnipeg to take on the Jets. That road swing takes them through to November 25 against Vancouver with stops in Edmonton and Calgary along the way. The team does not face off against their arch rivals again until two days after Christmas when they go to Madison Square Garden to take on the Rangers (only the second meeting of the season between the teams). January sees the Devils travel to California and take on the defending champ Kings in LA before moving to Anaheim and San Jose going into the All-Star break. The All-Star game takes place on January 25, 2015 in Columbus. Los Angeles makes their trip east as the Stanley Cup champions face the Devils on March 23 at Prudential Center. The Devils play a home-and-home against the Rangers on April 4 (at the Garden) and 7 (at The Rock) and then finish the season with a two-game road trip to Florida to take on Tampa on April 9 and the Panthers on April 11 to end the season.

One thing any fan loves is free giveaways. The Devils promotional schedule includes opening night on October 18 when the Devils will face the Sharks. All fans will receive a magnetic schedule. On October 24 against the Stars, the Devils will honor “Chico” Resch and all fans will receive “a special Chico giveaway.” November 4 versus St. Louis will be Hockey Fights Cancer Night while November 11 against Zach Parise and the Minnesota Wild will be Military Appreciation Night. Devils 12-month calendars will be given to all fans in attendance on November 28 against Detroit while February 21, 2015 will be Kids Day against Carolina (all kids 12 and under will receive a gift courtesy of the Little Devils Kids Club). St. Patrick’s Day sees the return of Retro Night as the Devils will don their original red and green jerseys against Pittsburgh. Finally, Fan Appreciation Night will see prizes given out to fans throughout the game on April 7 against the Rangers.

For a hockey fan, this is the best time of the year. The slate is clean. Last season is over. It’s time to drop the puck on a new season. So many questions abound for the NHL in general and the Devils in particular. Can the Kings repeat? Will the Western Conference continue to dominate? For the Devils: will they get scoring from their new signee Cammalleri? Will fellow new addition Martin Havlat stay healthy? How will the goaltending fare with Schneider as the undisputed number one? Does the team have what it takes to make the playoffs? All this and more will be answered in the next six and a half months. So sit back, relax and enjoy, we’re in for a bumpy (but fun!) ride. To Devils fans and hockey fans everywhere: good luck and have a great time this season!

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