New Jersey Devils Game 1 Preview: vs. Chicago Blackhawks

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 01: P.K. Subban #76 and Jonathan Bernier #45 of the New Jersey Devils celebrate their 7-1 victory over the New York Rangers in a preseason game at the Prudential Center on October 01, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

New Jersey Devils fans can rejoice because the day has come. Hockey is finally back as the Chicago Blackhawks are in town tonight.

Tale of the Tape:

The Opponent: Chicago Blackhawks (0-1-0) – FHN Blog: The Tomahawk

Puckdrop: 7:00 PM ET

Venue: Prudential Center

Starting Goaltenders: Jonathan Bernier vs. Kevin Lankinen

Television Broadcasts: MSG+, NBCSCH, NHLN, TVAS

Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago struggled immensely in their own zone on Wednesday in a loss to the Colorado Avalanche. The speed and skill of the Avalanche, even without superstar Nathan Mackinnon, was too much for the Blackhawks to handle. This small sample size shows the Blackhawks’ defense is still suspect even with the addition of Seth Jones in the offseason.

Kevin Lankinen will get the start tonight for the Blackhawks as Fleury gets rest before tomorrow’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Lankinen is entering his second season as a NHL goaltender. The 26-year-old had an impressive start to his career last season, posting a 3.01 goals-against average and a record of 17-14-5 in 37 games started.

New Jersey Devils

The Devils enter the season missing some key pieces on their roster. Miles Wood, Damon Severson, and Ty Smith are beginning the season on injured reserve. While all of these players could have been activated for the season opener tonight, none of them will be taking the ice tonight.

The most important missing player is goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood. Blackwood is still recovering from offseason heel surgery. After seeing some preseason action, Blackwood has missed some practice time and is unable to start the season. The injury to the 24-year-old goalie means that Jonathan Bernier will make his New Jersey Devils debut.

For the Devils to find success against Chicago, they must carry over some momentum from the preseason. New Jersey took four out of five preseason games and showed flashes of the team they could be this season. The forwards, specifically Jack Hughes, must use their speed and puck carrying ability, like Colorado did Wednesday night, to overwhelm a weak Blackhawks’ defensive unit.

The defense also needs to keep an eye on Patrick Kane whenever he is on the ice. Kane is in his 15th season with the Blackhawks and is just as dangerous as ever. Losing sight of Kane is a recipe for disaster as the three-time Stanley Cup champion does not need a lot of room to make a play.

Player to Watch: Dougie Hamilton

Dougie Hamilton makes his much-anticipated debut tonight. The 28-year-old defenseman signed a seven-year, $63 million contract with New Jersey back in July. Now the cornerstone of the defensive unit, every Devils fan wants to get a glimpse of Hamilton’s puck-moving capabilities in regular season action.

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