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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, October 3rd (All times Eastern)

New Jersey Devils (0-0-0) at Pittsburgh Penguins (0-0-0), 7 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - Although the teams are part of a new division this season, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils will renew their rivalry in Thursday's battle in the Steel City.

The Penguins and Devils have grown accustomed to each other over their years battling it out in the old Atlantic Division, but Pittsburgh and New Jersey are now members of the Metropolitan Division thanks to the NHL's realignment plan for the 2013-14 season. Joining the Devils and Pens in the Metro are all of their remaining former Atlantic Division members (Flyers, Rangers, Islanders) as well as Carolina, Columbus and Washington.

While Pittsburgh made it to the Eastern Conference finals last spring after winning the Atlantic, the Devils missed the postseason one year after going all the way to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. It marked the second time in three seasons that New Jersey was left out of the playoffs.

Although the Devils earned praise for acquiring a future replacement for Martin Brodeur in goaltender Cory Schneider back in June, the club's 2013-14 playoff chances were dealt a major blow when star forward Ilya Kovalchuk announced his retirement from the NHL in July.

At just 30 years of age, Kovalchuk opted to leave $77 million over 12 years on the table by retiring. Then, less than a week after ending his NHL career, he signed a four-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League.

In addition to losing Kovy, the Devils also watched David Clarkson, the team's goal-scoring leader in 2013, leave the nest to sign a lucrative deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. That means New Jersey, a team that finished 28th in team offense last season, is going to need big offensive years from its returning players and offseason acquisitions Jaromir Jagr, Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder to stay afloat this season.

The 41-year-old Jagr enters the season with a lower-body injury, but he expects to play in the opener, as does Devils forward Patrik Elias, who has battled a groin injury of late.

One player who won't be on the ice at the start of Thursday's game is Brodeur, who will see his streak of 18 straight starts in season openers for the Devils come to an end.

On Wednesday, New Jersey announced Schneider, who was 17-9-4 with a 2.11 GAA for the Vancouver Canucks last season, will get the call in the season opener. Devils head coach Peter DeBoer said his decision to go with Schneider is related to the recent passing of Brodeur's father, Denis, who died on Sept. 26 at the age of 82. The future Hall of Famer left the team to attend his father's funeral in Montreal, and DeBoer said he was going with Schneider to give the 41-year-old Brodeur extra time to prepare.

Schneider was acquired to eventually take over the No. 1 goaltending job from Brodeur, but both netminders are expected to get considerable playing time in 2013-14.

"I know I must have a streak, but I don't know how long it is," Brodeur said of not getting the start. "It doesn't matter. It's not a big thing. It's durability. I'm part of the lineup regardless."

The last time the Devils used a goaltender other than Brodeur to start a season was in 1993-94, when Chris Terreri began the year between the pipes.

While New Jersey enters this season without its most dangerous offensive weapon of the last few years, the Penguins still boast skaters like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang and Chris Kunitz on their roster.

Pittsburgh easily led the NHL with an average of 3.38 goals per game last season and Dan Bylsma's club should be every bit as potent in 2013-14. However, Letang, one of the best offensive defenseman in the world, is on injured reserve to begin this season and Neal is questionable for Thursday's opener with an upper-body injury.

Even without Letang and possibly Neal the Penguins have more than enough scoring to get by. Stopping the opposition from scoring is another matter, as the Pens have issues on the blue line and in the crease.

The goaltending situation is less than stellar, especially since Tomas Vokoun is set to miss the first 3-to-6 months of the season after undergoing a procedure to dissolve a blood clot in his pelvis. Vokoun was the backup to Marc-Andre Fleury last season, but took over the No. 1 job after Fleury stumbled in the playoffs.

Fleury, who helped Pittsburgh win a Stanley Cup tile in 2009, has struggled regaining his previous form over the last few seasons. Fleury was solid during the 2013 regular season, going 23-8-0 with a 2.39 GAA before registering a 3.52 GAA and .883 save percentage in five playoff appearances last spring.

Jeff Zatkoff will serve as the backup to Fleury until Vokoun is able to return.

"I want to go with the goaltending we have here and see how we do," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said in light of the Vokoun injury. "Like anything, you'll evaluate as you go ... right now I want to go with this and see how we do. I want to give Jeff the opportunity, which I think he's deserved."

The Devils claimed three of four meetings against the Penguins last season and have taken three in a row and six of the last nine encounters in this series. However, New Jersey hasn't fared well in Pittsburgh in recent seasons, losing six of its past eight tilts in the Steel City.

10/03 10:57:06 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
7:00pm Tonight
CAR
WAS
 
7:30pm Tonight
BOS
CHA
 
Final
CLE 110
GSW 99
4th
PHO 106
OKC 106
 
7:00pm Tonight
IND
CLE
 
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
WAS
 
7:30pm Tonight
BOS
CHA
 
7:30pm Tonight
TOR
GSW
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
NYK
 
7:30pm Tonight
ATL
ORL
 
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
BRK
 
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
LAC
 
8:00pm Tonight
NOP
MIA
 
8:00pm Tonight
CHI
MIN
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
UTA
 
10:00pm Tonight
SAC
SAN
 
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
MIL
 
10:30pm Tonight
POR
OKC
 
Final
KNST 53
NKENTUCKY 78
 
Final
CITA 74
ETST 73
 
Final
GWEBB 91
CSOU 81
 
Final
VMI 82
CHAT 86
 
Final
BRY 77
CCST 69
 
Final
PBY 80
CCAR 69
 
Final
DREX 44
DEL 58
 
Final
UNCA 71
HIGH 75
 
Final
TEMPL 66
HOU 54
Final
EKENT 63
JVST 57
 
Final
WRST 58
UWMIL 61
 
Final
MSU 90
MINN 96
Final
RFLSH 63
MNTER 60
 
Final
OSU 81
NEB 57
Final
MAST 67
NEOM 73
 
Final
ELON 72
NE 65
 
Final
LIB 80
RAD 69
 
Final
FD 85
SHU 90
 
Final
UNCG 81
SAMF 67
 
Final
LIU 69
Terriers 74
 
Final
TENN 65
VANDY 73
Final
RMU 91
WAGN 59
 
Final
FUR 53
WCU 49
 
Final
IUPUI 71
WILL 66
 
Final
CAMP 65
WINT 50
 
Final
MERC 72
WOFF 76
 
Final
APP 58
GSOUT 77
 
Final
UNT 81
CHAR 65
Final
MURST 65
EILL 57
 
Final
MARS 87
FIU 69
Final
WKENT 71
FATL 68
Final
ILLCH 67
UWGB 72
 
Final
ORU 74
NDST 58
 
Final
NDAK 75
NARZ 85
 
Final
RICE 54
ODU 63
Final
MON 60
RIDE 63
 
Final
PEAY 64
SIUE 61
 
Final
LATU 77
UTEP 60
Final
SMISS 70
TXSA 66
Final
TENST 52
TENNM 69
 
Final
CHIST 74
GRCN 70
 
Final
UMKC 69
WLVRN 50
 
Final
SALA 57
LAMON 75
 
Final
ARKST 81
TXARL 80
 
Final
ARKLR 92
UGST 83
 
Final
TXST 67
TROY 61
 
Final
COL 54
ARZ 82
Final
PURD 92
RUTG 85
Final
MEM 57
SMU 66
Final
NCOL 77
SUTAH 67
 
Final
MORE 86
TENT 73
 
Final
EWASH 92
MNTST 68
 
Final
PORT 69
BYU 82
 
Final
CSNO 82
CSFU 72
 
Final
IDAHO 92
MONT 87
 
Final
SCU 57
PAC 64
 
Final
UCSB 74
UCD 60
 
Final
CPSL 56
UCI 63
 
Final
UTAH 83
ARST 41
2nd
STAN 75
ORST 48
 
Final
GONZ 59
SDU 39
Final
USF 53
GAELS 84
 
Half
HAW 39
LBSU 29
 
6:00pm Tonight
QUIN
SIENA
 
6:30pm Tonight
CORN
HARV
 
7:00pm Tonight
CAN
FAIR
 
7:00pm Tonight
IONA
MAN
 
7:00pm Tonight
BRO
PENN
 
7:00pm Tonight
YALE
PRIN
 
7:00pm Tonight
MAR
PETE
 
8:00pm Tonight
CLMB
DART
 
8:00pm Tonight
AKR
OHIO
 
10:00pm Tonight
CLST
VALPO
 
Final
NYR 4
ARI 3
Final
CLB 2
MON 5
Final
BUF 6
VAN 3
Final
FLA 0
CHI 3
Final
TOR 3
PHI 2
Final
WIN 1
STL 2
Final
NAS 2
MIN 4
Final
SJS 2
DET 3
 
Final
LOS 0
OTT 1
 
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
BOS
 
7:00pm Tonight
NYI
CAL
 
7:00pm Tonight
CAR
WAS
 
7:30pm Tonight
TAM
CHI
 
8:30pm Tonight
DAL
COL
 
10:00pm Tonight
ANA
LOS