It’s finally here. After months of the Ilya Kovalchuk Saga and a long training camp, the New Jersey Devils will finally drop the puck to open the 2010-11 season tonight at home against the Dallas Stars.
Before tonight’s game, John MacLean and his players admitted to being both nervous and excited for their first game of the season.
“Totally,” MacLean said when asked if he expected to be nervous tonight. “You’re nervous all the time. Having nerves is good. It’s a nervous excitement. If you’re not nervous about something, you’re comfortable. Nerves gives you a little butterflies and you’re ready to go. It’s competition. You’re excited getting into it.”
MacLean will make his NHL head coaching debut tonight. The Devils all-time franchise leader in goals served as an assistant for seven years before becoming head coach of the Lowell Devils last year. MacLean led them to their first winning season in two years.
But it’s not only the coach who’s feeling the butterflies. Martin Brodeur, who will start his 16th opener in a row, admitted to being excited for tonight’s game.
“I think there’s a level of excitement that everybody was looking for with all the changes,” Brodeur said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “The possibilities of what you achieve in the regular season and going into the playoffs, it starts tomorrow. It’s been a great camp. I’m looking forward to the start. We were able to get under the cap somehow and now it’s fun. Guys are here and comfortable, so it will be a good start.”
The Devils will also play two rookies, Alexander Urbom and Matt Taormina, on the blue line tonight. Urbom was ready for the excitement of his first NHL game.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “My first NHL game, of course it’s amazing. I’m going to be real excited if I play. That’s why I came to camp, to play in the NHL.”
Zach Parise acknowledged that last year’s finish, a 4-1 series loss to the Flyers in the first round, didn’t sit well with him throughout the offseason. The left-winger is excited to erase the memory of that playoff defeat and play meaningful games again.
“We finally get to play in one that means something,” Parise said to Gulitti. “I’m excited to see how our line (with Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk) does. I’m excited to see how Jamie, (Jason) and Patty (Elias) do. It’s going to be fun.”
The Devils face a Dallas Stars team looking to improve on last season’s 12th place finish in the Western Conference. The team will be missing two of its cornerstones, as both Mike Modano and Marty Turco signed elsewhere this summer.
The Devils usually fare well in home openers, with a 12-1-5 record. The only loss came last season, when the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Devils to open the season. Brodeur is 9-4-2 in opening games.