New York Rangers v New Jersey Devils

Devils could be blessed by light travel schedule next season

With the 2011-12 season rapidly approaching, the gang at PHT decided to take a look at all 30 NHL teams’ schedules. Each team’s highs and lows will be studied in detail to give you an idea of what the future might hold for each squad.

Note: Mileage figures via On the Forecheck’s “Super Schedule.”

New Jersey Devils schedule analysis

Travel mileage: 28,597 (least in the NHL)

Back-to-back games: 15

Toughest stretches

The early part of the Devils’ schedule is pretty rough, which isn’t great news since Travis Zajac could be sidelined until 2012. After playing their first three games at home, they’ll finish October with five of six games away from Newark, including a four-game trip that starts against the Penguins and then swings through the Pacific Division. While they go from New Jersey to Pittsburgh in back-to-back games, the four-game trip doesn’t include any back-to-backs, though.

November starts off friendly again, only to turn on them. From Nov. 12 to Nov. 21, they’ll play five road games in a row. Shortly after that, they’ll play five of six games away from home to enter December.

The Devils don’t really have an especially brutal stretch, to be honest, though; their longest road trip is just five games. Aside from that, they have four different four-game road trips. New Jersey doesn’t seem to have too many huge hurdles relatively speaking.

Easiest periods

The Devils’ schedule doesn’t have a ton of highs and lows, but there’s one period in which the team should stock up some points. They’ll play six straight games at home from Jan. 17 to Feb 2. None of those games are back-to-back contests and they even get a week off during that stretch, so this is when they’ll need to stock up points.

New Jersey also plays seven of 10 games at home from mid-December to early-January, as well, so that won’t be their only golden opportunity to put a run together – just arguably the best one.

Overall outlook

Let’s face it, the Devils will likely go as 39-year-old goalie Martin Brodeur goes in 2011-12. With that in mind, the team’s comfy travel schedule could be a real boon. They also lack a genuinely vicious road stretch, which is a godsend if their 16-23-2 record in away games isn’t an outlier.

A relatively challenging first three months is a bummer considering Zajac’s injury issues, but overall, their schedule is pretty friendly. The Devils might want to give Brodeur a break during most of those 15 back-to-back games, though.

Goalie nods: Niemi expected for Stars against Penguins

Antti Niemi, Jonathan Toews
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Talk about getting thrown into the fire.

Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.

Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.

Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.

We’ll start to find out tonight.

Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.


Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.

Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.

Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.

Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.

Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.

Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.

Flyers want to prove doubters wrong

Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux
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Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.

“We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly. 

So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.

That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”

The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.

“My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”

That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.

Related: Flyers to start season with seven defensemen