Season Series: This is the first of six meetings between the Turnpike rivals. Despite finishing with 25 more points than the Devils last season, the Flyers only won three of the six matchups.
Big Story: The Flyers come into this contest with a game under their belt, and an impressive one at that. After falling behind the defending Stanley Cup-champion Bruins on opening night in Boston, the Flyers scored two quick goals near the end of the first period and hung on for the 2-1 victory. The Flyers have a lot of new faces in new roles, but they clicked instantly Thursday. The Devils, meanwhile, will play their first game of the season and first game with Zach Parise as captain. After a brutal start sunk them last season, the Devils really want to get off on the right foot.
Devils: There probably isn't a team in the NHL that needs a good start more than the Devils. Not only are they coming off a rare playoff-less season, but Parise is on a one-year contract and Martin Brodeur is in the final year of his deal. If Parise, one of the game's elite players, is to be convinced to make New Jersey his long-term home, a successful season is paramount. With Brodeur, it could be his last season no matter what happens, but he seems to have plenty left in the tank and the Devils likely wouldn't mind his services for a couple more years. At the heart of any return to the postseason will be new coach Peter DeBoer, who will employ a more up-tempo system than that of his predecessor, Jacques Lemaire. "The key here is to play with confidence," said Ilya Kovalchuk, who scored 31 goals last season, most coming after Lemaire replaced rookie coach John MacLean in December with New Jersey in last place. "When you do that, you can manage the game more in this system. That's so important for us."
Flyers: The big reason for GM Paul Holmgren shipping out the big contracts of Mike Richards and Jeff Carters was the desire to sign a big-time goalie. Holmgren did just that when he landed Ilya Bryzgalov, who showed right away that he could make a difference. He made 22 of 23 saves against the Bruins in the opener, including a beauty of a stop on Brad Marchand midway through the second period that kept the Flyers on top. Coach Peter Laviolette appreciated the effort. "Through the course of the game, even after the first two periods, they did not have a lot of shots on net. A lot of the ones they did have were quality chances," Laviolette said. "The chances were relatively close after two periods, but he was equal. He kept himself in the game. In the second period it seemed like we generated more zone time and more shots on net. The ones that slipped through us were some mistakes that we made. But he was able to bail us out. He played really strong."
Who's Hot: With goals in the opener, the Flyers' Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux are on pace for a career-best 82 goals this season. ... The Devils have yet to play a game this season, but Kovalchuk ended last season with 4 goals and 4 assists in the final seven games.
Injury Report: The Flyers lack any injuries, but will be without Jody Shelley due to suspension. ... The Devils will be without No. 1 center Travis Zajac (Achilles') for a long stretch to start the season.
Stat Pack: Including the playoffs, the Flyers are 12-4-1 in their last 17 meetings with New Jersey. ... The Devils were the worst team over the first half of last season (10-29-2), yet were the best team over the second half (28-10-3). Brodeur enters the game having started an NHL-record 16 home openers with the same team. "My first opener [in 1993-94] is the only one I didn't play," Brodeur said Friday. "Chris [Terreri] played it."
Puck Drop: "We’re excited but I think it’s kind of a careful excitement. You kind of just want to take it step by step. It’s less casual than maybe it was in other years just because of what happened last year. We had a lot of practice time, I think now the system is in place and we’ll see how that’s going to work. If there’s an adjustment to be made, we’ll have to do them. But it’s a really good challenge for us to play one of the top teams right from the get-go." – Brodeur on the start of a new season