Two wins in two games, even in a lockout-shortened, 48-game schedule, is still way too small a sample for the Devils to feel too good about themselves. They know there are obstacles to overcome as they continue to ease their way into the season tonight against the Washington Capitals at Prudential Center. But, as they shake off the rust following the four-month work stoppage and get used to life without Zach Parise, they have a foundation to fall back on that they believe gives them an advantage. Although scoring goals might still prove to be struggle, their defense from the team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals last season is intact. And only one player – 18-year-old rookie Stefan Matteau – came to camp not already well-schooled in the more aggressive, forechecking system that coach Pete DeBoer installed last season. That continuity is probably the biggest reason they have a chance tonight to open a season 3-0-0 for the first time since 2002-03. It's also a big factor — combined with the stellar goaltending of the ageless Martin Brodeur — in them allowing only one goal in their first two games. "Last year to start with was a new coach, new system, it took us a while to get it and now we just jump right into it because everybody knows it," defenseman Henrik Tallinder said. "So, it should – should – be an advantage for us." For a team that had the same head coach in consecutive seasons only once between the 2004-05 lockout and this season's work stoppage, the stability could not have come at a better time. Having needed about three months to get comfortable with DeBoer's system last season, they can't imagine what it would be like to have to do that in this season with only 48 instead of 82 games to work with. The Capitals are experiencing that under their first-year coach Adam Oates — a Devils assistant the last two seasons. With Oates making changes to their system, the Capitals are 0-3-0 after a 4-1 loss to the Canadiens on Thursday. After years of playing a more passive system, particularly with their defensemen, Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador doesn't believe the team would have been able to make the adjustment to DeBoer's system in a shortened season like this one.
Defense gives Devils an edge
Bergen Record | Jan 25