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Penguins, Devils open in Metropolitan Division clash

by Brian Hunter /

DEVILS (0-0-0) at PENGUINS (0-0-0)


Season series: This is the first of four meetings between the Metropolitan Division rivals, all before the calendar shifts to 2014. Although the Pittsburgh Penguins finished 24 points ahead in the standings last season, the New Jersey Devils took three of their four matchups. Defenseman Andy Greene contributed a goal and three assists for the Devils, while forward Chris Kunitz had a goal and three assists to pace the Penguins.

Big story: It's evident Cory Schneider is the Devils' goaltender of the future, but he'll also be their starter on opening night. Martin Brodeur has started 18 straight season openers, but missed practice time last weekend due to the death of his father, and coach Pete DeBoer will apparently hold him for the team's home opener Friday against the New York Islanders.

At the other end of the ice, all eyes figure to be on Marc-Andre Fleury, who unquestionably will start for the Penguins and will look to start the process of making everyone forget about his meltdown against the Islanders in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. His veteran backup, Tomas Vokoun, is out for three to six months after dealing with a blood clot during training camp.

Team Scope:

Devils: Can a team lose two of its top three scorers and actually get better? New Jersey no longer has the services of Ilya Kovalchuk or David Clarkson, but after going out and adding free agents such as Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder, Ryane Clowe and Rostislav Olesz, the Devils expect to compete for a playoff berth after missing out last season for the second time in three years.

Jagr missed the entire preseason nursing various injuries, but has said for the past week he'll be a go against the team with which he broke into the League in the 1990-91 season.

"The fans, they're going to boo me, no question about it," he said Wednesday. "That's OK. I got used to it already."

Penguins: There's unfinished business in Pittsburgh after the Penguins rampaged through the abbreviated 2012-13 season, looking certain to match up with the Western Conference's top team, the Chicago Blackhawks, in the Stanley Cup Final, only to get swept by the Boston Bruins in an Eastern Conference Final stunner.

The Penguins' lethal offense may make them the favorites in the new Metropolitan Division, but Fleury must return to his regular-season form if finishing first is to be a reality. Vokoun's absence means there's no safety net to start the season; rookie backup Jeff Zatkoff has never played in an NHL game.

"I feel like I've gotten better as camp went on," Fleury told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "My timing, everything, feels pretty good right now."

Injury report: Devils forward Mattias Tedenby (lower body) is doubtful. … Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (leg) and forward Matt D'Agostini (lower body) are on injured reserve, as is Vokoun. Defenseman Brooks Orpik (lower body) is questionable.

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