It wasn't the prettiest of games. It wasn't the ugliest of games, but NJ Devils hockey returned Saturday night as they opened their season on Long Island as they narrowly defeated the NY Islanders 2 to 1.
And yes, I said narrowly defeated, even though the Devils out shot the Isles 28 to 19 and outplayed their opponents pretty much the entire game. But it was painfully obvious that the loss of Zach Parise, the absence of Adam Henrique to a thumb injury, and the shortened the training camp have left the team missing something on offense.
It is undeniable, there is something missing from the Devils lineup. I hope that Henrique's return will fill that void.
Now on to the good stuff - and there is plenty more good than bad to talk about.
The first goal of the night was a pass from Ilya Kovalchuk to Travis Zajac who knocked it home. The game winner was a pass from Patrik Elias to David Clarkson. These are some combinations that I'd like to see for the rest of the season - and definitely flip flop the players. Clarkson's game winner puts him in familiar territory as last year - he had seven of those last season - and that is a heck of a way to start a season.
Mattias Tedenby looked pretty solid last night, too. The young Swede is tough on the puck and is a ferocious skater. He put himself in the right spot at the right time many times last night, but failed to put any pucks in the net.
The Ryan Carter-Stephen Gionta-Steve Bernier line continued the vicious forechecking they started in the playoffs last year and were a huge difference for the Devils last night. The Islander, often with its first line out, were unable to keep up with this line. This gave the momentum to the Devils and allowed for the multitude of shots.
The Devils fourth line also sustained some offense last night. Rookie 18-year old Stefan Matteau had a good first outing getting credit for three shots and a hit on the scorecard.
The Devils defense was as solid as it is expected to be. Led by Captain Bryce Salvador, the guys got the job done. The only Islanders goal came on the power play and no one covered Travis Harmonic in the slot - I mean the dude had a good four seconds wide open in front of Marty Brodeur.
Brodeur looked like a youngster last night: stretching, reaching, grabbing and saving shots most 20 year olds couldn't get.
Kovy had a phenomenal game. His time in Russia has left him in great game-playing condition.
A win is a win. And in the shortened season, an in-division win is greatly important. I'm already itching for game two.
Let's go Devils!