It's the dawn of a new season for the New Jersey Devils, and it started with the shock and awe of skating onto Prudential Center ice that now features a new scoreboard overhead. As players made their way onto the ice, they were caught looking up at the new addition, which is the biggest in-arena scoreboard in the world.
Sit at practice and you'll hear a glimpse of how coach John Hynes wants to see his team play come Saturday. The mantras of "Hard to the net!" and "Speed!" are exclaimed more than once during the 60-minute practice. Hynes used the words "relentless" and "tenacious" when it came to describing how he wants his team to play and how he has seen the identity of the team grow over the course of the preseason.
Now it is time to put that positive energy toward the regular season, as the real work begins with Game 1 of an 82-game schedule Saturday afternoon.
When it comes to the leadership group, coach Hynes has said that he will be patient in handing out permanent 'A''s. With Travis Zajac out of the lineup until at least December there will be a rotation of players wearing the letter on their jerseys. Hynes would not further elaborate on who those players will be, so it's a wait-and-see process. Also kept under wraps is who will be in the lineup Saturday afternoon. Coach would not divulge who his six defensemen and 12 forwards are against the Avalanche, but one thing is for certain: Cory Schneider will start in goal.
All eyes at practice were on Nico Hischier, the 18-year-old about to make his NHL debut. Hischier was swarmed by media this morning after practice, everyone trying to grab a soundbite from the first-overall pick of the 2017 draft. Hischier said there are nerves and excitement, but he just wants to get two points - he's already talking like a veteran hockey player. Hischier will have his mother and father at Prudential Center Saturday, and plenty of new Devils fans watching back home in Switzerland.
The Devils open their season Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. against the Colorado Avalanche and will arrive in style, walking down a red carpet lined by adoring fans. Players will begin arriving at 11 a.m.