Hockey is back! Well, hockey that's not at all fully competitive and won't count after two weeks is back. It's still the New Jersey Devils taking on Our Hated Rivals, the New York Rangers. Well, it's a bunch of regulars mixed in with players who won't be on the roster in a few weeks on both sides. It's still at the Prudential Center, it costs money to attend, and it will be run as if it was any other game. It's hockey!
The Time: 7:00 PM EDT
The Broadcast: There actually is one! TV - MSG (Rangers) /MSG+ (Devils, only one on TV this preseason)
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils vs. the New York Rangers (SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter)
These previews are going to be somewhat different than the ones you're used to seeing. It's preseason so the records and stats don't matter much. I would like to see the Devils win, but it's not the end of the world if they don't. These two weeks are perfect for coaches to experiment with their lineup and tactics while players get up to speed. The Devils have not announced anything as of this writing - which is always done the day prior to the game - other than that Cory Schneider will be in net and Martin Brodeur will not be in net. Tom Gulitti reported that on Sunday at Fire & Ice and he notes that it is not even guaranteed that Schneider will get the whole game. Since Jaromir Jagr has not been practicing, I doubt he'll suit up for this one. Plus, Patrik Elias not scrimmaging on Sunday - as reported here by Gulitti - makes me doubt his inclusion tonight. I don't see a need to rush either into this first game since there will be five more and, again, these games don't count. With two veterans likely out, the Devils can get some other guys on tape and see how they do. Of course, I could be wrong. The entire roster should be reported later today.
The Rangers are definitely taking that experimental approach. Gulitti's associate at the Bergen Record, Andrew Gross, covers Our Hated Rivals. According to this Sunday post, the team cut some players and established most of their roster for Monday's game. There are some definite aces in the lineup like Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, Brad Richards, and Rick Nash. There are also some guys looking to break into the NHL roster such as Chris Kreider, Danny Kristo, and Justin Falk. The only potential change could depend on Stu Bickel's status. As Gross stated, if his back remains an issue, then Dylan McIlrath will take his spot on defense. Alain Vigneault is not icing a full strength roster and it should be expected for this time of the year. It's appropriate to do that now ahead of the actual season since there's no penalty if something goes awry.
Since this is also the very first preseason game for both teams, there's going to be quite a bit of proverbial rust on players as well. I would recommend focusing on how players perform in general. Whether they're getting that rust off, whether they fit in with someone, and so forth. I'd look at the puck movement more so than attempts on net. Players in sync and in some kind of form should be able to effectively move the puck to their teammates and likewise. Those that aren't will result in a lot of pucks bouncing off sticks or straying from their targets. Effective passing may be enough to create the opportunities for offense against New York tonight, depending on how well the Rangers are set for this game.
There will be two notable rule changes in effect for this and the other five preseason games. The NHL is experimenting with hybrid icing and shallower nets. The shallower net adds a four more inches behind the net, which could yield more wraparounds and players trying to set others up from behind the goal line. Hybrid icing allows the refs to blow a play dead if the puck sails into the endboards from behind the red line. They can let play happen if there is an actual race between a defending and attacking player. I'm not a big fan of hybrid icing because of that judgment call by the ref. If the intent is to reduce potential danger from guys crashing into each other in chasing a puck, then why not just make it no-touch icing and eliminate it altogether? It's not like a lot of offense happens when the offense negates an icing call since there's usually a defenseman in the area to make a play. If I'm not mistaken, the players will decide whether they want to keep either rule change after preseason. It's something to look out for as these two teams skate it out in an exhibition.
Again, this is preseason so there's not really a whole lot of depth to go into. I would recommend just trying to enjoy it. I understand it's a rivalry game, but given that the stakes are very low for the Devils, it's not worth getting up in arms short of the Rangers winning a blowout. Even then, I wouldn't be that concerned since preseason games don't count. The process here will otherwise remain the same. There will be a game, I'll be in Section 1, Row 16, Seat 5 as usual to watch it, there will be a recap sometime after the game, and we will go on to the next one.
Who do you want to see have a good game tonight? What part of the Devils' game will you looking forward to this evening? Are you going to the game? If not, you shouldn't miss this one on TV as it's the only Devils preseason game on TV (I do not know if the other five games will be streamed online by the Devils or their opponents). Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight's preseason game. Welcome to the return of hockey and thank you for reading.