A year removed from being one of the worst teams in the NHL, the New Jersey Devils will be one of the hottest topics in the league this upcoming season.
After the Devils scintillating playoff run to the Stanley Cup Final, the Eastern Conference champion Devils will be playing in front of a national broadcast 13 times between NBC Sports and NBC Network, the league announced on Thursday.
New Jersey, who entered the playoffs this spring in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and sixth overall, didn’t play consistently on national television until the post-season, but that will change next season.
Seemingly every Sunday afternoon, NBC was filled with games including the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, but perhaps those tides will change when the 2012 season gets underway.
After all, the Devils did dismount the Flyers and Rangers, despite both teams receiving much higher ratings in the regular season, and both being heavy favorites in their respective playoff series’ against New Jersey.
The move does make sense for the league. Throughout their playoff run, the Devils quickly became one of the most exciting teams to watch. With their fourth line scoring virtually every night and their forecheck out-working the top lines of the Flyers and Rangers, people grew accustomed to the Devils winning hockey games with authority.
And, of course, New Jersey did save its best hockey for those games that were nationally televised in May.
Perhaps the most intriguing match-up that will be broadcasted will be the Stanley Cup Final rematch with the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 9. Finishing in a likewise second place would most notably be the Devils game against the Minnesota Wild on Nov. 11. Both of those games will be at Prudential Center and are subject to change with a lockout looming over the league.
New Jersey’s first game against the Rangers will be featured on Oct. 17 on NBC Sports.
Among other notable games, the Devils will play Pittsburgh on Nov. 3 and two games against the Flyers — home and away — on March 13 and Dec. 19, respectively.
The league may have fallen asleep on New Jersey in 2011, but it won’t happen again. With an aging goaltender who many believed was past his time, and an inexperienced team with a leader on his way out the door, there wasn’t much expected from the Devils. Now, all eyes will be on the team that stunned nearly everyone en route to a Prince of Wales Trophy.
If the playoffs are any type of indication, it might be better that way for New Jersey, who won 14 of their 24 post-season games this season.
The constant? They were all on national television.