The Devils played in two, split-squad, games last night–half of the team was in Montreal and the other half at the Prudential Center, playing against the Philadelphia Flyers. New Jersey won both games, against the Canadiens (by the score of 3-2) and in Newark (in a 2-0 shutout).
With Cory Schneider and Kyle Palmieri not yet available due to their World Cup appearances, the talent was somewhat thinned out in both games. But, the game in New Jersey particularly gave new players the chance to get to their sea legs and show off their talents. Ten players who did not appear in a Devils uniform last season took to the Prudential Center ice last night; two additional players who appeared against the Flyers, Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha, skated in only one game for New Jersey last season.
Neither Zacha nor Wood stood out last night; instead, it was rookie Nick Lappin that got everyone’s attention. Lappin scored both of New Jersey’s goals (including an empty netter with 31 seconds left in the game) and rang a shot off the cross bar earlier in the first period.
Lappin’s two goals earned him the game’s first star, but it was more than his marksmanship that drew attention. Lappin was making the small plays all over the ice–plays that do not get recorded in the box score. Whether it was a good pass, good positioning, stickwork or getting the puck into the offensive zone, Lappin was playing smart hockey in all situations.
A right winger, with decent, but not exceptional, size, Lappin was an undrafted free agent signed by the Devils last March after four years at Brown University. Immediately assigned to Albany on an ATO, Lappin performed excellently in his introduction to the professional game–posting seven points (three goals, four assists) in the regular season and then seven (five goals, two assists) in 11 playoff games.
Among the other newcomers to the Devils that were noticeable last night, were three NHL “veterans.” Anders Lindback, who was signed to a PTO earlier this month, played more than 30 minutes in net. Lindback faced 15 shots, and stopped everything that came at him. He did have a shaky start, coming in for Keith Kinkaid at 9:38 of the second period. But he finished very strong, as the Flyers came on in the last three minutes of the third period and peppered him with excellent shots.
This is Lindback’s sixth team in as many years, ie, he is a journeyman NHL netminder. With Kinkaid and Scott Wedgewood ahead of Lindback on the depth chart, it is not likely that he will start the season with the Devils. However, he does have solid experience and could be a good replacement if there are injuries.
In addition, to Lindback, two veteran defensmen, Ben Lovejoy and Karl Stollery, had nights that were worth mentioning. Lovejoy, the 32-year old who was signed to a three-year contract in July, played more than 24 minutes last night. Playing on the right side, Lovejoy was excellent defending on Philadelphia’s seven power plays, was calm with the puck, distributing it well at crucial times.
Stollery was unsung and somewhat unnoticed last night. The 28-year old left defenseman, who has only 12 career NHL games under his belt, was signed by the Devils to a one year contract in July. Meant to be a depth defenseman, likely starting in Albany, Stollery was on the ice for 6:11 of penalty kill time. He played close to 21 minutes in total last night, including 1:06 on the power play. He might not have appeared to look like he did much when you studied the box scores or game summary this morning, but Stollery was solid on both sides of the puck is a player to keep your eye on this preseason.
The Devils next preseason game is Thursday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The season home opener will be Tuesday, October 18, 2016 against Anaheim.
Correction: The Devils next preseason game is actually a rematch with the Flyers tomorrow, Wednesday, in Allentown, Pa.