After ending a five-year playoff drought, the New York Islanders enter 2013-14 under the spotlight.
Kicking things off on a positive note, though, could prove difficult against future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur, who tries to help the New Jersey Devils bounce back in his season debut.
Hoping to avoid a sixth consecutive season-opening loss, the Islanders try to spoil the Devils' home opener Friday night.
New York endured five straight last-place finishes before going 24-17-7 in the lockout-shortened season, taking Pittsburgh to six games in a first-round playoff series. Star center John Tavares led the way with 28 goals to finish third in the NHL.
"I definitely see the expectations are higher, and people are going to expect for us to be in the playoffs," said the 23-year-old Tavares, New York's newly anointed captain.
"It's going to be a great task for us this year, but we're looking forward to it. Playing in the playoffs makes you hungrier to get back there. You can sense that hunger. We want to get back there and prove even more to ourselves."
Aside from trading former captain Mark Streit to Philadelphia and buying out Rick DiPietro's infamous $67.5 million contract, the Islanders had a relatively quiet offseason. They added former Minnesota forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Cal Clutterbuck, though Clutterbuck is sidelined with a laceration on his leg.
"Our quest starts (Friday) night and we're excited to get it going," defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "Unfortunately it's been a long summer and a long training camp, but it's nice be at this point. We're excited for the ride this year. It's up and it's down. You hope that you've done the right work in the summer to prepare for it."
New Jersey's first game didn't go as planned, falling 3-0 at Pittsburgh on Thursday. Recently acquired Cory Schneider made 18 saves for the Devils, who failed to generate any offense.
Damien Brunner recorded a career-high eight shots, but fellow newcomer Jaromir Jagr was held to one.
"It was one of those nights, the puck didn't go in," coach Peter DeBoer said. "We've got to find a way to put some in the back of the net."
Brodeur, meanwhile, saw his NHL record of 18 consecutive season-opening starts end. The league's all-time leader in wins (669) and shutouts (121), though, is expected to start this game.
"I don't know if there were any guys who did it more often than me, I doubt somebody will, it's kind of a tough one," he said. "I had a good run. We'll keep one of the two alive with Friday's game."
The 41-year-old Brodeur went 13-9-7 with a 2.22 goals-against average last season. While his 50 wins versus the Islanders are his most against any team, Brodeur is 1-2-1 with a 3.02 GAA in his last four home games in the series.
The Islanders took three of five from New Jersey in 2012-13, including both road matchups while scoring a combined eight goals. Tavares has six and two assists during a four-game stretch against the Devils.
"Any time it's a division rival and a team that you have history with and you play a lot, you always want to bring your best and earn those points," Islanders defenseman Brian Strait said. "They're in our conference so it's crucial every time we play them."
New York could turn to goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who was re-signed this summer. The 38-year-old veteran was 23-11-7 with a 2.50 GAA and three shutouts last season.
Nabokov has allowed one goal in each of the last two matchups versus New Jersey, improving to 5-8-0 with a 2.97 GAA in 13 starts against the Devils.
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