By John Schweibacher
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The New Jersey Devils begin the 2010-11 season with a home game against the Dallas Stars and then take on two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference; the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.
John MacLean will be making his NHL head coaching debut behind the Devils bench on Friday night. MacLean, New Jersey’s all-time leading goal scorer, had the most opening night tallies in club history. Here is the list of the Devils who have the most career goals in openers in club history:
John MacLean 7
Bobby Holik 5
Pat Verbeek 4
Paul Gagne 4
Stephane Richer 4
Zach Parise 4
Sylvain Turgeon 3
Patrik Elias 3
Sergei Brylin 3
Brian Gionta 3
The Devils are 17-6-4 all-time in season openers but have lost two of their last three, dropping a 3-1 decision against the Lightning in Tampa in 2007 and a 5-2 defeat vs. the Flyers at Prudential Center a year ago.
The Stars will be the fifth out-of-conference opponent New Jersey has faced in a season opening game. The Devils played the Detroit Red Wings twice in openers; a 3-3 tie in 1990 and a 3-1 win in 1996, defeated the St. Louis Blues, 7-2, in New Jersey in 1991 and lost to the Blackhawks in Chicago, 2-1, in 1998. New Jersey has won all three of its meetings with the Stars since moving to the Prudential Center, outscoring Dallas by a combined 13-2 margin.
The Stars no longer have future Hall-of-Famer Mike Modano, who signed to play for the Red Wings this summer. The last time the Devils faced a Stars team without Modano on its roster was back on March 5th 1989, when New Jersey beat the then Minnesota North Stars, 2-0, at the Brendan Byrne Arena.
Martin Brodeur will be making his 16th consecutive opening night start, extending his NHL record for a goaltender. Brodeur is 9-4-2 in those openers dating back to the start of the work-stoppage delayed start of the 1994-95 season. Chris Terreri was the last goalie to start a season opener for the Devils other than Brodeur, a 2-1 win over Tampa Bay on October 6th, 1993. Ken Daneyko’s 3rd period goal was the game-winner that night at the Meadowlands.
Ilya Kovalchuk will be playing in his 8th season opener and first for the Devils. Kovalchuk totalled four goals and four assists in seven opening games as an Atlanta Thrasher, including a two goal, one assist performance last season in Atlanta’s 6-3 win over Tampa Bay to begin the 2009-10 season.
The Devils face the Washington Capitals Saturday night in D.C. Like New Jersey, the Caps suffered a disappointing first-round loss this past post-season, eliminated by Montreal in seven games. The Devils won three of the four meetings last season against the Capitals. Alexander Ovechkin played in just two of those four games, scoring one goal and adding four assists. In 18 career games vs. New Jersey, Ovechkin has scored seven goals and had 15 assists with a plus/minus rating of plus-10.
On Monday afternoon, the Devils host the Penguins in a Columbus Day matinee. Pittsburgh was also an upset victim of Montreal in the Stanley Cup playoffs. New Jersey swept all six of its games against the Penguins in 2009-10, outscoring the Pens 22-5. Sidney Crosby had just one goal and two assists in the six contests with a plus/minus rating of minus-6.
Overall in his 32 career games against the Devils, Crosby has 17 goals and 18 assists and a plus/minus of plus-4.