newjerseydevils.com – With a new coach, new slim-fitting jerseys and a brand-new state-of-the-art arena opening later this month, it's out with the old and in with the new for the New Jersey Devils in 2007-08.
Head coach Brent Sutter, who came aboard in July, will make his NHL regular season debut when the Devils begin the new campaign tonight in Tampa Bay (7:30 PM, FSN NY, Sports Radio 66 WFAN).
It's the first of nine season-opening road games games for New Jersey, which will play its Prudential Center home opener on Oct. 27 against the defending Eastern Conference champion Ottawa Senators.
For the Devils, the '07-08 season follows a training camp in which Sutter established an aggressive, uptempo style, and made it clear that he's focused on doing whatever it takes to win.
Winning is something Sutter did plenty of in his eight seasons as owner, president, general manager and coach of Red Deer (WHL), leading the Rebels to the 2001 Memorial Cup and three straight WHL Eastern Conference championships.
"There doesn't have to be a tremendous amount of love between the players and their head coach. There has to be a tremendous amount of respect," Sutter has said. "I demand respect. I demand hard work. I'll do everything I can and I expect the same thing back from the players."
Sutter will look to add to the string of recent success for the Devils, a team that finished with a franchise-record 49 wins last season, while grabbing its seventh regular-season Atlantic Division title and 10th straight playoff berth.
Zubrus, signed as a free agent in the off-season, was named an alternate captain.
New Jersey retains a familiar core led by goaltender Martin Brodeur, who secured his third Vezina Trophy last season after posting 48 wins to set a new single-season NHL record. Against Tampa Bay, Brodeur owns a career regular-season mark of 23-13-2 with five ties, five shutouts and a 2.03 goals-against average.
Jay Pandolfo returns for his 11th season with the Devils, and tonight can add to his current team-high 283 consecutive games played. Sergei Brylin, who, like Brodeur, has won three Stanley Cups with the Devils, enters his 13th season in New Jersey needing eight points to reach the 300-point plateau.
After re-signing with the Devils in August, defenseman Paul Martin begins his fourth season with a chance to quarterback New Jersey's offensive attack, while young standouts Zach Parise (31g-31a-62pts) and Travis Zajac (17g-25a-42pts) continue to mature.
To that mix of tested veterans and skilled youth, the Devils sprinkled in a crop of new names, all of whom the Devils hope will make an impact as the franchise gears up for a chance at its fourth Stanley Cup Championship.
Forward Dainius Zubrus set career highs last season in goals (24), assists (36) and points (60), and the 6-5, 225-lb. Lithuanian has already been tapped by Sutter as one of the team's three alternate captains, along with Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta.
New Jersey's free agent acquisitions included forward Arron Asham, defensemen Karel Rachunek and Vitaly Vishnevski, and goaltender Kevin Weekes. Each figures to have a role in the Devils' efforts to record an 11th 100-point season.
The Lightning were 3-1-0 last season against the Devils, who tonight will be without defenseman Colin White (puck to the eye area), right wing Jamie Langenbrunner (groin), and right wing Cam Janssen (separated shoulder).
Next up, the Devils visit Florida for a 7:00 PM start on Saturday, and continue the road swing with stops in Ottawa (Oct. 8, 3:00 PM), Florida (Oct. 11, 7:30 PM), Atlanta (Oct. 13, 7:00 PM), Pittsburgh (Oct. 17, 7:30 PM), and Philadelphia (Oct. 18, 7:00 PM).
The trip concludes with matchups against the Islanders (Oct. 20, 7:00 PM) and the Rangers (Oct. 25, 7:00 PM).