Boston travels down to New Jersey to face the Devils. That's usually not an appealing proposition, but the Bruins might be catching New Jersey at the right time. The Devils have just one win in their first five games, and have been decimated by injuries.
Between the injuries and their own cap mismanagement, the Devils had just 15 skaters to dress in a 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Monday and 16 skaters in Buffalo on Wednesday, though they still managed to win that game 1-0 in overtime behind an Ilya Kovalchuk goal and a Martin Brodeur shutout.
They were back to a full 20-man roster on Friday for a 3-2 loss to Colorado, but between the rigorous schedule they've faced this week and their shortage of healthy bodies, the Devils are sure to be a tired bunch on Saturday. If the Bruins can jump on them early, they might do the near impossible and actually enjoy a trip to Jersey.
When and Where
Boston Bruins (1-1-0, 2 points) at New Jersey Devils (1-3-1, 3 points)
Oct. 16, 7 p.m. (NESN)
Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
Head to Head
This is the first meeting of the season between the Bruins and Devils. Boston was just 1-2-1 against New Jersey last year, but all four games were decided by one goal. Patrice Bergeron scored in overtime for a 1-0 win in the final matchup on March 30 to avoid the sweep. The Bruins still hold a 64-37-19-10 edge in the all-time series.
Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas split the goaltending duties in Prague. Rask didn't get much support in a 5-2 loss to Phoenix in the opener, while Thomas made 29 saves to blank the Coyotes 3-0. Rask, who gave up four goals on 36 shots, led the NHL with a 1.97 GAA and a .931 save percentage last year, while Thomas is trying to return to his Vezina form of the previous year, when he led the league in the same categories at 2.10 and .933.
Brodeur is the workhorse for New Jersey, but could get a rare day off in this one after allowing three goals on 22 shots against Colorado on Friday. Brodeur started slow this season, allowing nine goals in his first two games, but rebounded with his NHL-record 111th career shutout against the Sabres on Wednesday. For his career, he's 24-15-8-1 with a 2.39 GAA and a .915 save percentage against Boston. Johan Hedberg has the cushy job of backing Brodeur up. He allowed two goals on nine shots in one period of relief work against Washington in his only appearance so far this season.
- The Bruins were just 1 for 8 on the power play in the two games in Prague, but they put 19 shots on goal in those eight power-play chances, so they are creating scoring opportunities with the extra man.
- Nathan Horton got off to a red-hot start in his first season as a Bruin, as he factored in four of the five goals Boston scored in Prague. He scored three of them himself, while assisting on another.
- Michael Ryder has also gotten off to a solid start, picking up an assist in each of the first two games, including a long outlet pass that sent Tyler Seguin in for his first career goal. Last year, Ryder had points in back-to-back games just once before a season-high three-game point streak in December.
- Kovalchuk has enjoyed playing against Boston throughout his career, piling up 21-18-39 totals in just 33 games against the Bruins. He spent his entire career in Atlanta before a late-season trade to New Jersey last year, but has more points against Boston than against any other team outside of the Southeast Division.
- Patrik Elias has scored in four straight games for the Devils, posting 1-3-4 totals in that span. Like Kovalchuk, he's had plenty of success against the Bruins, with 20-18-38 totals in 46 games vs. Boston.
- Opponents haven't taken advantage of New Jersey's short bench by playing particularly physical against the Devils. New Jersey actually outhit each of its last three opponents by a combined 52-28 total. Buffalo managed just five hits against the Devils, while Colorado had only six.
- Defensemen Bryce Salvador (concussion), Anssi Salmela (knee surgery), Mark Fraser (broken hand) and Anton Volchenkov (broken nose) all out, along with forward Brian Rolston (sports hernia).
- Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) is out indefinitely.
- Marco Sturm (knee surgery) is expected to be out until at least November.
- Trent Whitfield (ruptures Achilles) could miss the entire year.
The Devils are second in the NHL with seven fights, five of which came in the third period of a blowout loss to Washington. David Clarkson and Rod Pelley each have a pair of fighting majors, while Kovalchuk, Fraser and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond each have been in one, with Letourneau-Leblond being demoted to the AHL after getting suspended for instigating a fight in the final minutes of the Capitals game. Greg Campbell got into the only fight on the Bruins' European trip, dropping the gloves with Phoenix's Vern Fiddler. Last year, Shawn Thornton fought both Andrew Peters and Letourneau-Leblond, while Mark Stuart took on Pelley in the only fights in the four-game series.
Rolston came to the Bruins from Colorado as part of the Ray Bourque trade and had 236 points in 338 games with Boston through 2004. Defenseman Matt Taormina, who scored his first NHL goal on Friday, played at Providence College from 2005-09. Off the ice, Devils assistant coach Adam Oates piled up 499 points in 368 games with the Bruins from 1991-97, goaltending coach Chris Terreri starred at Providence College, while GM Lou Lamoriello was born in Providence and was a coach and athletic director for the Friars before heading to the pro ranks. Hall of Famer Ferny Flaman, who played for the Bruins from 1944-51 and 1954-61, still works as a pro scout for the Devils. Bruins coach Claude Julien spent the 2006-07 season behind the New Jersey bench, where current Devils head coach John MacLean was one of his assistants.
The Bruins bounced back from last Saturday's disappointing season opener with an impressive 3-0 win over Phoenix on Sunday to earn a split in Prague. Now they'll look to continue that momentum despite the long layoff between games. They'll at least be well rested, while the Devils could be weary as they play their fourth game in six days with a short-handed lineup.