Getty Images

Devils open training camp with sense of excitement

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — As the New Jersey Devils arrived for the start of training camp Thursday, there was a sense of optimism for the first time in a while.

The Devils were 44-29-9 last season and finished with 97 points and the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Although the team was ousted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, it was the team’s first postseason appearance in six seasons.

Making the postseason last season is the main reason for the upbeat attitude among the team as new season begins.

”I think we were all looking forward to getting back here,” said forward Taylor Hall, the reigning NHL Most Valuable Player who had 39 goals and 54 assists last season.

”We created a buzz and excitement here. We had a little success under our belts. Getting everyone back again is exciting. There’s a lot more interest in us. I think it’s my job to get the younger guys ready to take the next step.”

One of the young guys that Hall is referring to is center Nico Hischier, the former No. 1 draft pick overall by the Devils in 2017.

Hischier had 20 goals and added 32 assists last season as a rookie, mostly playing on the same line with Hall. The 19-year-old Hischier was a contender for the Calder Award as rookie of the year, an award captured by Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders.

”I’m definitely excited,” Hischier said. ”I think we all want to keep how we finished last year. I just have to play my game. I just want to be stronger this year and improve my shot. I definitely know all the guys here. I didn’t know them last year. That definitely helps. It’s going to be a tough training camp, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Hischier is also looking ahead to a preseason trip to his native Switzerland Oct. 1.

”That should be fun,” Hischier said.

Although the Devils reached the playoffs last season, it isn’t the ultimate goal of this young team.

”We want to be better,” said veteran defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who begins his 10th NHL season and third with New Jersey. ”We want to be better than eighth place in the conference. It starts with having a good training camp. We need to have a successful training camp. We were embarrassed the year before and came out last year, working hard in training camp. We’re going to continue to get better.”

At this point last season, veteran center Brian Boyle was feeling a little fatigued and went off to have blood tests that revealed he had chronic myeloid leukemia, a rare form of bone marrow cancer.

The 33-year-old Boyle received medication to treat the cancer, but did not return to the ice until November. He managed to finish the season with 13 goals and 10 assists and was the recipient of the Masterton Trophy for his perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the sport of hockey.

Boyle begins training camp this year with the illness in the rearview mirror.

”It’s a nice feeling to know that I don’t have to think about it and it’s in the past,” Boyle said. ”I’m feeling good and I’m excited to be back. We’re not satisfied with just making the playoffs. Yes, that was an accomplishment, but we want more.

”We want to finish higher in the standings and win in the playoffs. I look forward to every training camp. I hope I get about seven or eight more. I love doing this and I want to do it for a long time to come.”

Boyle’s contract is up at the end of this season.

Another prominent member of the Devils is goaltender Keith Kinkaid, who was the team’s starting goalie when Cory Schneider went down with an injury. Kinkaid responded by posting a 26-10-3 record and a 2.77 goals-against average.

While Schneider’s availability in training camp remains a question, the 29-year-old Kinkaid is now a proven commodity for the Devils.

”I want to pick up where I finished the season,” Kinkaid said. ”I’m very confident right now. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. Everyone has to buy into getting better. I’m pretty confident that nothing is going to get past me.”

Devils coach John Hynes said that he has one goal in mind with the start of training camp.

”We want to build a solid foundation,” said Hynes, who begins his fourth season as head coach. ”We want to work on fundamentals. Every training camp is the same. We have to work every day to establish that foundation. The guys we have in camp are expected to come here and work. It has to get to a point where they believe. I think we all have a long way to go.”

The Devils begin the season Oct. 6 against Edmonton in Sweden and their home opener is Oct. 11 against defending Stanley Cup champion Washington.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Scroll Down For:

    Lightning ‘stick with it’ as power play thrives in Game 2

    lightning power play
    Getty Images
    Leave a comment

    The Lightning power play woke up in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, with plenty of help from the Stars.

    Tampa’s power play unit had failed to capitalize on their last 14 chances entering Monday, and had only scored once in their last 18 times with the man advantage. But with Dallas taking three penalties in the opening 13 minutes of the game, opportunity was knocking.

    Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat helped Tampa to a 3-2 win to even the series at one. Both power play goals were the result of two key factors that were missing for Tampa. The first was movement. The Lightning were in constant motion, changing angles and opening up space between the Dallas penalty killers. The second was crisp passing, which was highlighted by Nikita Kucherov finding seams to record the primary assists on each tally.

    The first goal saw Point set up in the bumper spot and no one positioned in front of Anton Khudobin. Tampa moved the puck from the left side to the Victor Hedman at the point to Kucherov on the right side. The pass to Kucherov forced Blake Comeau to scramble, and he chose to defend the lane back to Hedman at the point. That left more than enough space to connect with Point for his 10th of the playoffs.

    “He makes plays like that all the time,” Point said of Kucherov’s pass. “He puts the puck in such good spots for guys to be able to score and be able to succeed.”

    [MORE: 3 Takeaways: Lightning top Stars in Game 2]

    The passing clinic continued on the next power play. First, Hedman got Andrew Cogliano and Mattias Janmark to bite on his one-timer fake. Kucherov had a fake of his own on Hedman’s pass, forcing too much puck-watching by the Stars. That left Palat unmarked and a cross-ice passing lane available.

    “Our PK has had to do a job every game,” said Stars forward Jason Dickinson. “We take a lot of penalties in the playoffs.”

    He’s right. Dallas leads the postseason with 106 penalties taken, just ahead of Tampa’s 102. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper and his staff got a first-hand look at the Stars’ shorthanded unit in Game 1, which killed off three power plays. That learning experience paid off in Game 2.

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    “I think we’re just trying to stick with it,” Point said. “I think scoring that first goal today, that’s all we’re thinking about. We’re staying positive with the power play. We were crisp on our passes. … I don’t know if it’s a sense of relief, just happy to get a goal.”

    Employing personnel who can score on any shift breeds confidence, no matter how much failure is biting you. Frustration wasn’t going to win out in the end, however, and it was only a matter of time before skill would force a Lightning power play breakthrough. And it came at a time when it was needed most.

    “This time of year you can’t really get frustrated, you’ve just got to stick with it, wait for your next opportunity,” said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. We obviously have the guys on this team who can make you pay at any moment.”

    Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (Series tied 1-1)

    Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
    Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
    Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
    Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
    Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
    *Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
    *Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

    *if necessary

    ————

    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    NHL schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Final

    7 Comments

    The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue on Saturday, Sept. 19 in the hub city of Edmonton. Now that we are through the conference finals, the full 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule has been announced.  

    The top four teams during the regular season in both conferences played a three-game round robin for seeding in the First Round. The eight winners of the best-of-5 Qualifying Round advanced to the First Round.  

    Rogers Place in Edmonton will host 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final.  

    Here is the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule.

    2020 STANLEY CUP FINAL (Rogers Place – Edmonton)

    Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (Series tied 1-1)

    Game 1: Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
    Game 2: Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
    Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
    Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
    Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
    *Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
    *Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

    *if necessary

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    CONFERENCE FINAL RESULTS

    EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
    Lightning beat Islanders (4-2)

    WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
    Stars beat Golden Knights (4-1)

    ***

    SECOND ROUND RESULTS

    EASTERN CONFERENCE
    Lightning beat Bruins (4-1)
    Islanders beat Flyers (4-3)

    WESTERN CONFERENCE
    Golden Knights beat Canucks (4-3)
    Stars beat Avalanche (4-3)

    ***

    NHL QUALIFYING ROUND / ROUND-ROBIN RESULTS

    EASTERN CONFERENCE
    Philadelphia Flyers (3-0-0, 6 points)
    Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, 4 points)
    Washington Capitals (1-1-1, 3 points)
    Boston Bruins (0-3-0, 0 points)

    Canadiens beat Penguins (3-1)
    Hurricanes beat Rangers (3-0)
    Islanders beat Panthers (3-1)
    Blue Jackets beat Maple Leafs (3-2)

    WESTERN CONFERENCE
    Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 6 points)
    Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0, 4 points)
    Dallas Stars (1-2-0, 2 points)
    St. Louis Blues (0-2-1, 1 point)

    Blackhawks beat Oilers (3-1)
    Coyotes beat Predators (3-1)
    Canucks beat Wild (3-1)
    Flames beat Jets (3-1)

    ***

    FIRST ROUND RESULTS

    EASTERN CONFERENCE
    Flyers beat Canadiens (4-2)
    Lightning beat Blue Jackets (4-1)
    Islanders beat Capitals (4-1)
    Bruins beat Hurricanes (4-1)

    WESTERN CONFERENCE
    Golden Knights beat Blackhawks (4-1)
    Avalanche beat Coyotes (4-1)
    Stars beat Flames (4-2)
    Canucks beat Blues (4-2)

    3 Takeaways: Lightning top Stars in Game 2 of 2020 Stanley Cup Final

    Leave a comment

    The Stars nearly erased a 3-0 deficit in Game 2 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, but the Lightning held on for a 3-2 win to tie the series 1-1. Let’s mull over three takeaways from the Lightning’s narrow Game 2 win vs. the Stars.

    The Stars and Lightning face off in Game 3 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN (livestream).

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    1. Injuries, fatigue haven’t totally blunted the Lightning attack.

    More than once early in Game 2 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, it sure seemed like Nikita Kucherov was hurting. Some of us might have felt an impulse to suggest resting the seemingly banged-up winger after Kucherov suffered through this collision with Jamie Oleksiak:

    (And that wasn’t even the only scare for Kucherov, although it was the biggest one from Game 2.)

    Despite accruing more bumps and bruises, the Lightning showed that their skill can take over against the Stars during the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. Promisingly, Brayden Point rifled home a key 1-0 power-play goal. Being that Point missed significant chunks of the 2020 Eastern Conference Final, seeing Point score was a welcome sight even beyond the scoreboard.

    But Kucherov was especially impressive. He made a nice play to set up that Point goal, and the real treat was Kucherov’s tremendous slap-pass to set the stage for Ondrej Palat. Palat almost seemed handcuffed by that great Kucherov feed:

    With both Kucherov and Point banged up, and Steven Stamkos still not in the lineup, it doesn’t always look like the Lightning are at full-strength. Apparently they’re pretty dangerous even when they’re not at 100 percent.

    2. The Stars are better off in a Game 1-type situation than Game 2.

    On one hand, the Stars showed that they’ll fight hard in Game 2. No, it wasn’t enough to erase that 3-0 deficit, but that was a strong push.

    And a nasty style? That’s probably in the Stars’ more rugged wheelhouse.

    Still, Game 2 served as a reminder that if the Stars had the chance to choose between control or chaos, they’re better off coloring inside the lines.

    Recall that, through the first two periods of Game 1, the Stars largely bottled the Lightning. Dallas actually won the SOG fight 18-14 over the opening 40 minutes, then saw the Lightning bombard a keyed-in Anton Khudobin during the third period.

    In Game 2, both teams kept streaming to the box, and that burned the Stars like the Texas sun during summer time. It made for wilder, more compelling hockey, but Dallas is better off avoiding the dangerous game of trading chances with Tampa Bay.

    To some extent, that problem might sort itself out quite a bit since officials are notorious for avoiding calling just about any subjective penalty as a series goes on. That said, there were unforced errors in Game 2, such as Blake Comeau taking a foolish interference penalty during the second period.

    Ultimately, the Stars need to find the right balance between taking away the Lightning’s time and space, while also not having that physical edge push them into the penalty box. That rhythm was off – for Dallas – in Game 2.

    3. Andrei Vasilevskiy deserves some attention, too.

    It’s only natural for Anton Khudobin to draw a ton of attention. Beyond playing exceptional hockey, his journeyman story just begs for headlines, and probably glossy video features.

    Don’t forget about the guy in the other end, though. Even if he’s a prototypically sized goalie who bucked the larger trend and was selected as a first-round pick.

    We’re through Game 2 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, and Vasilevskiy hasn’t suffered consecutive losses during this Lightning run.

    Tampa Bay needed Vasilevskiy to have a stellar second period, and he didn’t disappoint. Only a Joe Pavelski tip ended up in the Lightning net despite the Stars generating an 18-5 shots on goal advantage in the middle frame. Overall, Vasilevskiy stopped 27 out of 29 shots in Game 2.

    It’s not as sexy of a story as Khudobin beating the odds, yet Vasilevskiy living up to huge expectations isn’t exactly chopped liver in narrative form, either.

    Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (Series tied 1-1)

    Game 1: Stars 4, Lightning 1. (recap)
    Game 2: Lightning 3, Stars 2. (recap)
    Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
    Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
    Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
    *Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
    *Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

    *if necessary

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Lightning ride hot start in Game 2 to tie 2020 Stanley Cup Final vs. Stars

    Leave a comment

    The Lightning almost watched a 3-0 lead evaporate before their eyes, but they did enough to beat the Stars 3-2 in Game 3, tying the 2020 Stanley Cup Final 1-1.

    From here, the two teams approach Game 3 (Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN – livestream) with the 2020 Stanley Cup Final series looking like a coin flip.

    Lightning win Game 2 of 2020 Stanley Cup Final thanks to strong start vs. Stars

    Back in Game 1, the Lightning failed to score during a busy third period, but they put a lot of pressure on Anton Khudobin.

    This time around, the Lightning broke through. Tampa Bay received three consecutive power-play opportunities to begin Game 2, and chasing in with PPG played a big role in taking that crucial 3-0 first-period lead.

    Nikita Kucherov sent tremendous passes to Brayden Point (1-0 PPG) and Ondrej Palat (2-0 PPG) to set up those first two goals. Considering the bumps and bruises Kucherov already was dealing with, it’s impressive that he managed that after painful falls like these:

    We’re not that deep into the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, yet the Stars and Lightning are already building up some serious bad feelings. Things boiled over more than once in Game 2, including after Ryan McDonagh ended Blake Comeau‘s night early with a bone-rattling hit.

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    Chalk it up to sitting on a lead or the Stars unleashing the hounds, but either way, Dallas made a serious push to get back into this one. The Stars managed an 18-5 shots on goal advantage during the second period, a frame where there stream of penalties turned into a geyser. Joe Pavelski‘s nice tip for a PPG gave the Stars a shot, and then Mattias Janmark cut the Lightning lead to 3-2 early in the third thanks to a tremendous feed by John Klingberg.

    Anton Khudobin’s been getting a lot of attention, yet Andrei Vasilevskiy has been strong during these 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was sharp when he needed to be on Monday.

    Once the Lightning’s lead diminished to 3-2, it seemed like they rose to the task. The Lightning actually managed a significant third-period SOG advantage (12-5), even though the Stars was trying to get back into Game 2.

    Mikhail Sergachev seemed to score a 4-2 insurance goal, but a successful offside review pushed it back to 3-2.

    That didn’t end up being a turning point in Game 2, as the Lightning shut the door against the Stars, tying the 2020 Stanley Cup Final 1-1.

    Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (Series tied 1-1)

    Game 1: Stars 4, Lightning 1. (recap)
    Game 2: Lightning 3, Stars 2.
    Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
    Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
    Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
    *Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
    *Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

    *if necessary

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.