The Devils finally open the regular season tonight against the Islanders at Prudential Center.
I figured I should post my prediction for the season to have it on the record before the season begins. As some of you may have seen, I predicted in The Record that Detroit will repeat as Stanley Cup champions and beat Montreal in the finals.
As for the Devils, I believe this will be a pretty good season. There's no question they are stronger up front after the additions of Brian Rolston -- the top six forward and power-play point man they needed -- and Bobby Holik. I think you'll see bounceback seasons from Jamie Langenbrunner and Travis Zajac. Brian Gionta should also play better, but you might see him get more assists this year with Rolston and Patrik Elias scoring more goals.
Some people seem to think Elias needs to rebound this season, but I thought he had a very good season last year from December on and didn't get much credit for the job he did moving to center -- a position he hadn't played in the NHL.
The defense is essentially the same other than Bryce Salvador being here from the start of the season and being healthy and rookie Anssi Salmela.
Martin Brodeur will have his usaul 40-plus wins in net and break the all-time wins record at some point in late November or early December. I think Kevin Weekes will play more often this season, but not more than 10 games.
How will it all add up? In the end, I think the Penguins will have a better team, but I think the Devils will win the Atlantic Divison regular season title. Pittsburgh will be hard pressed to get off to a good start with Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney out with injuries. The Penguins will get by with their wingers until the trade deadline and probably pick someone up again at the trade deadline to make a strong run in the playoffs again. It will be too late for them to take the Atlantic from the Devils, though.
The Rangers and Flyers will be close behind. The Rangers are an unknown right now. They could be fine, but they have a host of new players and you wonder if Henrik Lundqvist's knees can hold up for the long haul -- even with the defense being improved. I think a lot of people are underestimating the loss of Jaromir Jagr. He was the Rangers' best player by far in the playoffs last season and you just don't replace his presence easily.
So, I'll predict: 1. Devils. 2. Penguins. 3. Flyers. 4. Rangers. 5. Islanders in the Altantic. All but the Islanders will make the playoffs again.
Now, it's your turn. I expect a bias since most of you reading this are Devils' fans, but I'd like to hear your opinions and predictions.
Looking forward to the first game tonight.