By John Schweibacher
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The New Jersey Devils will open the 2013-14 season with a change in goal and changes at forward.
It all starts Thursday night in Pittsburgh. The Devils have faced the Penguins three times before in a season opener, but they all took place at the Meadowlands, including the first game in club history, a 3-3 tie on Oct. 5, 1982.
The other two:
10/9/87 — Pit 3, NJD 6. (Six different Devils scored as Alain Chevrier got win in goal.)
10/5/06 — Pit 1, NJD 5. (Included two goals from Brian Gionta and Zach Parise’s first career goal.)
Goaltender Martin Brodeur will not start a Devils opener for the first time since the beginning of the 1993-94 campaign. The last goalie to start the first game of the season other than Brodeur was current goaltending coach Chris Terreri in a 2-1 win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 6, 1993.
Draft day acquisition Cory Schneider will get the start Pittsburgh. Schneider did not face the Penguins in any of the 98 games he played for Vancouver. He’s also never faced the Islanders, Toronto, Montreal and Washington.
It’s believed Brodeur will start the Devils’ home opener Friday against the Islanders. The 41-year-old all-time wins leader has started every home opener since the work-stoppage shortened 1994-95 season.
Fifty of Brodeur’s 669 career wins have come against the Isles, his most against any opponent. Only 10 other Devils goalies have ever beaten the Islanders, combining for 30 total victories:
Chris Terreri 9-16-7
Johan Hedberg 4-2-0
Sean Burke 4-4-2
Chico Resch 4-15-2
Alain Chevrier 3-7-0
Kevin Weekes 2-0-1
Yann Danis 1-1-0
Scott Clemmensen 1-2-1
Bob Sauve 1-1-1
Kirk McLean 1-0-0
Pete DeBoer will be starting his third season as the Devils head coach and will be saddled with a lot of change up front. Ilya Kovalchuk “retired” over the summer, leaving $77 million behind, only to run to the KHL. New Jersey also lost gritty David Clarkson to Toronto during free agency.
The Devils compensated for those losses by signing a slew of veterans, including ex-Ranger Ryane Clowe, 41-year-old legend Jaromir Jagr and sniper Michael Ryder, among others.
Ironically, Jagr, who has 681 career goals, scored his first NHL goal against the Devils back in 1990. Once he takes the ice for New Jersey, Jagr will have the most career goals against the Devils by a player who at one time played for the Devils.
Here are the Devils who scored the most career goals vs. N.J.:
Jaromir Jagr 35
Dave Andreychuk 25
Bernie Nicholls 23
Peter Stastny 21
Steve Thomas 19
Ilya Kovalchuk 15
Bill Guerin 15
Sergei Nemchinov 14
Jagr and Ryder have been reunited after being teammates last season in Dallas before each were traded away to Boston and Montreal, respectively.
Overall, Jagr and Ryder both had 35-point seasons and were both statistically better than ex-Devils Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson in the work-stoppage shortened 2013 NHL season:
Plus: 22 back-to-backs. The near-two dozen pairs of consecutive games should mean plenty of playing time (and perhaps a smoother transition) between the 1 and 1A goaltending tandem of Brodeur and Schneider.
Minus: 22 back-to-backs. The collection of consecutive games is the most of any club in the NHL this season.
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