The 82 Games that will comprise the New Jersey Devils 26th season of play in the National League of Hockey since moving to the Garden State from Denver, Colorado will be an interesting one. It will start off with a team-record nine game road-trip, featuring six of nine against 2007 playoff teams, and three more against the rebuilt and ready-to-contend Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers.
It would do the Devils a favor to be over .500 when this trip ends. That is when they will officially move in to their new digs, the 17,625-seated for hockey Prudential Center - also known as "The Rock" - in the Brick City known as Newark, New Jersey. They open their 2007-2008 home schedule against last year's playoff nemesis, and the team that eliminated them from the Quest For the Cup in five games of a second round series, the Ottawa Senators.
Following that likely sold out opener, the Devils will play host to four more of their next five games. The Penguins and Flyers will make their first trips to The Rock during this stand. After two more on the road, the Devils welcome Jaromir Jagr, Chris Drury, Henrik Lundqvist, Brendan Shanahan, and some dude named "Gomez" and the New York Rangers to Broad St. for the first time on November 14th. The atmosphere will likely be unmatched of any Devil-Ranger regular season game ever played in the Garden State.
Two days after, the Devils welcome their division rival New York Islanders to The Rock for the first time, and go on a four-game road trip. Their first Western Conference opponent visits them following that swing, as the Dallas Stars visit the New Jersey for the first time since 2002. This will open up a five-game home state for the red-and-black, capped off with Alexander Ovechkin's Capitals' first visit on December 7. After a three-game road-trip, the Devils will play their first matinee at The Rock on December 15, as Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes visit for the first time since 2002. A Sunday-evening game with the Flyers follows.
Then, the Devils make their first trip out west of the season, as they face the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames in the span of five days, leading up to the NHL's Christmas sabattical and roster freeze. They return to action December 28th against Ryan Miller's Buffalo Sabres.
Dates of note in the new year include a stretch in January and February where the Devils will play a ridiculous 16 of 21 games on home ice. Other Western Conference visitors will include the LA Kings (Feb. 2), the San Jose Sharks (Feb. 20) and Scott Niedermayer's Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks for their first trip on February 8th.
In March, the Devils make a brief, two-game trip to the rest of the Northwest Divsion, taking on Jacques Lemaire's Minnesota Wild (Mar. 13) and Joe Sakic's Colorado Avalanche (Mar. 15). This will be the Devils last trip away from the Atlantic Division's three states (NY, NJ, PA).
The Devils close out the season with seven out of eight against their four rivals, with the team's home finale on Sunday, April 6th against the Rangers, which will be in contention to be chosen by NBC for their "Game of the Week" program, or will otherwise be moved to another time of the day.
It will be a long year, but in the end, these players and we as fans will probably find it to be one of the more entertaining years in the history of New Jersey Devils Hockey.