First Impressions

If last night’s preseason victory by New Jersey over the Rangers at the TU Center is any indication, there’s a good reason to be optimistic this season. The main storylines involve some old River Rats history and a new NHL preseason attendance record…9,420 were on hand to watch a thrilling 2-1 overtime win for the Devils in their first preseason tuneup.

Rookie goaltender Keith Kinkaid made his professional debut against–of all goalies–Henrik Lundqvist. And he did not disappoint, stopping all 10 shots he faced in just over a period and a half of work. He barely broke a sweat early on, as the Devils outshot the Rangers 6-1 early in the first period. Petr Sykora, a former River Rat here on a tryout, was the first to score, getting one past Lundqvist with 8 and a half left in the first. First round pick Adam Larsson, also making his pro debut, notched an assist on the goal.

Nothing across during the second period, as Jeff Frazee and rookie Cam Talbot took over the goaltenders duel. But the first fight of the preseason did break out by the Devils bench, a spirited bout between former Rat David Clarkson and the Rangers’ Andre Deveaux, who earned an early exit for his efforts.

Third period the Rangers finally started waking up. First came Round 2, a center ice bout between the Devils’ Brad Mills (an Albany regular) and the Rangers’ Dale Weise. I gave Mills the win on this one, only because he didn’t need a new sweater. But it was Weise with the last laugh, scoring the tying goal on Frazee with just over 4 minutes left in regulation. The game went into overtime, and it didn’t take very long to find a winner. Another former Rat, Patrik Elias, scored the game winner just 45 seconds into the extra frame as New Jersey held on for a 2-1 victory.

Kinkaid is as advertised. He looked more like a seasoned veteran than a kid just off of his second year of college. I had wondered why the Devils had gambled signing him (with so many goalies in the system and Brodeur’s status), but it looks like the gamble could pay off if he repeats last night’s performance. I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have to most of the other Devils out there…probably because thanks to a friend of mine I got a seat upgrade from upstairs to one row behind the bench. Sadly it was the Rangers bench. Try staring at the back of Sean Avery all evening while trying to watch/scout a game.

Now for my personal photo gallery of last evening (well the good pictures I got anyway):

Keith Kinkaid
Jeff Frazee
Petr Sykora
Steve Bernier
Lou is always watching...
Feel free to turn this into a dartboard if you wish...

Next game for the Devils comes against the same Rangers tomorrow night at the Rock, followed by a Saturday game against the Islanders. I believe first round of cuts should be no later than postgame on Saturday. Stay tuned…

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