Posted October 12, 2011 on AP on Fox
It's still early, but the New Jersey Devils feel good that they're off to a better home start than last season. The Los Angeles Kings are starting to feel better after kicking off their season in Europe. The Devils close out a three-game homestand Thursday night when they meet the Kings for the first of two matchups over the next 13 days. New Jersey went 0-5-2 on home ice to open last season - its first without a playoff berth since 1995-96 - but the club won't have to worry about matching that awful start following Monday's 4-2 victory over Carolina. Led by Ilya Kovalchuk's goal and two assists and two goals from first-year captain Zach Parise, the Devils rebounded from Saturday's season-opening 3-0 loss to Philadelphia. "You want to get as many wins as you can early because the season always goes up and down," said Kovalchuk, the team leader with three points. First-year coach Peter DeBoer knows that if his Devils are going to avoid some of the pitfalls from last season, Kovalchuk and Parise will have to deliver. Each found the back of the net in the third period Monday. "When you are 2-2 going into the third period, those are the two guys you are counting on," DeBoer said. The Kings are expecting Anze Kopitar to bounce back from his 25-goal season - his second-worst output in five years - and so far, the center has delivered with team highs of three goals and four points. Kopitar scored and then assisted on Jack Johnson's winner in Friday's 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Rangers in Stockholm. He followed that performance by scoring twice in a 4-2 loss to Buffalo on Saturday in Berlin - the NHL's first regular-season game in Germany. First-year King Mike Richards also looked energized over the weekend, scoring a goal and recording an assist in the opener, and coach Terry Murray was glad to see much of the same from his club during its third practice in Maryland on Wednesday. "... When I saw the players on the ice today, it was a clear indication that we've readjusted to North American time," Murray told the Kings' official website. "There was a lot of energy, enthusiasm and jump on the ice in the practice. So we have to assume, I think, that everything is OK." Everything appears to be fine with Dustin Penner's lower-body injury, and the forward will likely make his season debut on the Richards-Dustin Brown line. "We're pretty deep down the middle and down the wing, so whatever combination ends up working best for the team, I think that's what we'll stick with," said Penner, who finished with just two goals in 19 games last season after being acquired from Edmonton. It's uncertain if the Kings will face Martin Brodeur or backup Johan Hedberg. Brodeur, who turned away 29 shots in the season opener, is 8-6-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average in 15 starts against the Kings. He made 20 saves in the only matchup between these clubs last season, as the Devils lost 3-1 in Los Angeles on Oct. 30. Jonathan Quick, who stopped 39 shots in that game to win his third consecutive start against New Jersey, could be in net after Jonathan Bernier got the nod Saturday. The Kings, 6-2-1 in their last nine games in New Jersey, host the Devils on Oct. 25 in the teams' final matchup of 2011-12.
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