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Boyle scores first career hat trick on Hockey Fights Cancer Night

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Brian Boyle has been through hell and back over the past year, and that’s what made Tuesday night in Pittsburgh that much more special for the New Jersey Devils forward.

Boyle had never scored a hat trick in his 12-year NHL career, but that was about to change on a fitting night in Pittsburgh.

The Devils were in town to face the Penguins, who were hosting Hockey Fights Cancer Night. Fighting cancer is something Boyle knows all too well.

The 33-year-old was diagnosed with Chronic myeloid leukemia last September and missed the opening of the 2017-18 season. Boyle would return, helping lead the Devils to the playoffs, making a pit stop at the NHL All-Star game and becoming an inspiration to anyone entrenched in a battle of their own.

Just over a week ago, Boyle announced his cancer had gone into remission and on Tuesday night Boyle, now a cancer survivor, stuck it to the disease one more time as he scored his first career hat trick — a natural hatty for good measure.

Some stories just write themselves.

The NHL began its 20th annual Hockey Fights Cancer initiative on Nov. 1. Each team across the NHL hosts one home game dedicated to the cause.

This year, Boyle’s wife Lauren was named the official Hockey Fights Cancer ambassador.

NHL.com is publishing several stories from Lauren, who will detail her personal experience as the couple battled the disease.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

More of the same for Oilers in season debut

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If the Edmonton Oilers were looking to dispel fears that last season was a fluke and they weren’t as bad as they showed, Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils didn’t help their cause.

Look, one game isn’t enough to sound the alarm, but given last season in Edmonton, and the fact they didn’t do that much to improve the team in the offseason, is it enough to put one hand on the alarm’s handle?

Edmonton looked sloppy defensively and, outside of a decent stretch in the third period, appeared largely lethargic.

Search #Oilers on Twitter and you’ll see the tire fire that is well-involved. Game 1 has already started talk of Jack Hughes’ arrival in Northern Alberta. There are 81 games to go and talk of the Oilers winning the lottery for the hundredth time is already surfacing.

It comes with the territory, I suppose.

Last season was a huge disappointment considering the promise Edmonton showed in 2016-17. Edmonton was supposed to compete for the Cup, not the No. 1 pick. Last year brought all that optimism back to earth.

And any good feelings that were produced in the offseason this year — the whole hope springs eternal thing that time away brings — was yanked away early in Saturday’s game in Sweden.

Edmonton’s defense was a big question mark coming to the season and remained that way after the 5-2 loss.

The Oilers gave up 10 high-danger scoring chances in the game and were easily beaten in terms of shot share. They produced just four shots in a woeful second period.

And you’re not going to win many games allowing stuff like this:

Exhibit 1: Kyle Palmieri was allowed to walk in on the first goal of the game.

Exhibit 2: Travis Zajac with enough time to eat a five-course dinner in front of the net.

People are going to fault Cam Talbot, the hero from 2016-17 who had a down year last season. Sure, he didn’t have his best outing, but the man needs some help there in front. Those above goals are almost gimmes when players are allowed that much time and space.

There weren’t a lot of people expecting the Oilers to be world beaters this season, but there we many hoping to see marked improvements. It’s not like Edmonton could really go out and fix this problem with money. They have no cap room to spare and some regrettable contracts that no one wants any part of.

Todd McLellan jumbled his lines in the third to put Milan Lucic, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl together. The goal it produced was pretty from Draisaitl and Lucic scored earlier in the game, which is a good sign after a dreadful year last season. Lucic needed to get off to a good start and he did with a two-point night.

But overall, it’s hard to think Oiler fans are thinking positive at the moment.

This team is, and will remain, under the microscope all season. Both McLellan and general manager Peter Chiarelli are on the hot seat.

Maybe getting back to North America will help spark something better.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Martin Brodeur is going home, returns to Devils in business development role

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Martin Brodeur is heading home.

After three years as the assistant general manager of the St. Louis Blues, one of the greatest goalies of all-time is taking a step back from hockey operations and putting his business hat on as the New Jersey Devils’ executive vice-president of business development.

“It feels fantastic to be back home here in New Jersey,” Brodeur told the Associated Press. “This unique opportunity will allow me to build on existing relationships in the business community and take on a new challenge in my career. I’ve been able to work in all facets of the game of hockey and have had a growing interest in the business surrounding the game.”

Brodeur, who is set to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame later this year, left his post with the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, citing that he was chasing new opportunities, although it appears he will remain a resident in the Gateway to the West.

“I have a ton of respect for Marty in that he felt at this point in his life with his son, Max, he wanted to spend a little bit more time at home,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. “When you look at the hours an assistant manager has to put in, even in the summer preparing, Marty felt he needed to prioritize his family coming from playing and jumping right into management. He hasn’t had any time off. I certainly understand that. We wish Marty nothing but the best as he moves forward. When he does want to get back in the management role in hockey, his future will take him wherever he wants to go.”

With recent experience working in a hockey ops role with Team Canada, it will be interesting to see where Brodeur goes with this new role. He’s a three-time Stanley Cup winner with enough goaltending records to have his own book.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Brodeur back on the hockey side of the game in the future, but you can’t blame him for wanting to watch his kids grow up.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Devils go ‘heritage’ route with 2018-19 third jersey

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It’s third jersey season and on Tuesday the New Jersey Devils were the latest NHL team to unveil an alternate look for the 2018-19 campaign.

They’re going old school and bringing back the white, red and green uniforms that they wore for a 10-year period between 1982 and 1992. The team is calling it a “heritage” jersey and SportsLogos.net pointed out why:

A “heritage uniform” can only be worn a maximum of six times per season and can be scrapped after one year while a third or “alternate” uniform must be worn a dozen times and for at least three seasons. At least that’s what I’ve been told.

How about those gloves?

Devils

The Devils say they will wear this uniform four times at Prudential Center this season, and considering they’re the white jerseys and not the reds from that era, maybe there’s a chance we see them during a few road games.

What do you think? Already have visions of Stephane Richer, John MacLean and Ken Daneyko dancing in your head?

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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.

Three questions facing New Jersey Devils

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the New Jersey Devils.

1. Can youth lead the way?

We mentioned earlier that this team is going the young route as general manager Ray Shero continues to craft it around youthful exuberance.

The Devils will be led by Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier next season, and it’s important the latter takes the next step in his game while the former continues the play that won him the Hart Trophy. But the supporting cast needs to progess as well. Jesper Bratt had a solid rookie outing and will be counted on to forge ahead.

Ditto for Will Butcher, who had a productive year on the back end and likewise for Pavel Zacha, who enters his third season in the NHL this year and could have a more prominent role if the Devils decide to split Hischier and Hall up.

[Looking back at 2017-18 | Building off a breakthrough | Under Pressure]

2. Can Schneider bounce back from two poor seasons and offseason hip surgery?

It bears repeating that Schneider is the most important component to the success of the Devils.

With the strides the Devils have made outside of the crease, Schneider getting back to the numbers that garnered him his $42 million contract seems like a surefire way for the Devils to stick out in a talent Metropolitan Division.

His .908 and .907 in the past two years, respectively, won’t cut it if the team wants to ride him for 60 games.

It may not come early for New Jersey. Schneider’s arrival next season largely depends on how he’s healing from offseason hip surgery. Keith Kinkaid can handle the load until Schneider makes his return, so there’s no reason to rush Schneider back in just to have him end up back on injured reserve.

The Devils showed they could compete despite adversity this season. Void of that this season, and the Devils could be competing for more than just the final playoff spot in the East.

3. Will secondary scoring come? 

The line with Hall and Hischier combined for a good chunk of the Devils offensive production last season.

Even between those two, there was a 41-point gap. Between Hall and the next best producer, it was 49 points.

Hall can lead the way, as he showed this year, but others need to step up and reciprocate to close that gap. It’s possible Hischier hits 70 points this season. It’s possible that healthy Marcus Johansson can hit the 50-point mark once again.

There’s a lot of scenarios, including New Jersey’s young contingent improving on last season’s numbers.

The lack of scoring was exploiting in the playoffs at just 2.4 goals per game. That was never going to be enough to see off the Tampa Bay Lightning, and there’s no reason to suggest that will change this season.

Bonus round: What should Ray Shero do with the $18 million he has left floating around in cap space? The team needs to re-sign Miles Wood still, but what should be added and where? 


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck