NEWARK, N.J. — The New Jersey Devils began last season with a blistering start out of the gate en route to their first playoff appearance since 2012.
Though the sample sizes are small, the Devils are off to another good start — especially Kyle Palmieri.
Palmieri and the Devils try to make it three straight wins to start the season Sunday afternoon when they host the San Jose Sharks, who are concluding a five-game road trip.
The Devils set the tone for their first playoff appearance since the 2012 loss in the Stanley Cup final by winning their first three games and nine of their first 11. Palmieri finished with 24 goals last season and has scored twice in each of the first two victories over Edmonton and Washington, becoming the first player in Devils history to get multi-goal games in a season’s first two contests.
“You’ve always got to be confident in the way you shoot the puck,” Palmieri said. “You’ve got to be confident you can put it in the spot you want. For me, it’s fortunate they’re going in. We’ll see how long we can keep that going.”
Palmieri scored the first goal of the season 58 seconds into the 5-2 victory over Edmonton in Sweden on Oct. 6 and scored in each of the first two periods in Thursday’s 6-0 win over Washington. Fifteen players have at least one point for the Devils, who have yet to trail.
“When Kyle Palmieri plays really well, he moves his feet. He’s tenacious on the puck. He’s hard on the puck and he has a shooting mentality, a shoot-first mentality,” Devils coach John Hynes said. “That’s what he’s done. When he’s not playing his best sometimes, those elements aren’t in his game. But it’s nice to see him get off to the start he’s gotten to. He’s gotten rewarded for the type of work he’s put in.”
The Devils are looking to open 3-0 for the 11th time in the New Jersey era.
San Jose is hoping to conclude its trip on a good note after blowing a one-goal lead in the final 2:39 of regulation and losing 3-2 in overtime to the New York Rangers. The Sharks dropped to 2-1-1 on the trip after Erik Karlsson‘s giveaway deep in their offensive zone resulted in the game-winning goal.
So far, the trip has seen the Sharks get an overtime win in Los Angeles, take a 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders despite 35 shots on goal and roll to an 8-2 victory in Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
Brett Burns had two assists, setting up goals from Marcus Sorensen and Joonas Donskoi. Sorensen scored San Jose’s third short-handed goal of the season while Donskoi tallied on one of the several odd-man rushes the Sharks compiled on a 43-shot night.
San Jose has totaled at least 33 shots in each game and coach Peter DeBoer said he believes the goals will start flowing after a series of tough goaltending performances against the Sharks.
“I thought we created a lot,” he said. “We’re eventually going to score. We did the other night in Philly. That dam will burst.”
The Sharks will be without Joe Thornton, who is out indefinitely with knee surgery. Joe Pavelski has filled the role of top-line center with two goals, continuing his play from last season when he finished with 32 points in his final 35 games following Thornton’s ACL and MCL tears.
“We’ve just got to stick some in the net,” Pavelski said. “I’m part of the blame there. I got some looks that have just got to go in.”
Thornton can return from injured reserve Sunday but is likely to come back for Thursday’s home game against Buffalo.
The Sharks will try to capitalize on more chances against an opponent which has allowed 40 shots total in two games and against Keith Kinkaid, who owns a .950 save percentage.
Aaron Dell started the last two games and has stopped 55 of 60 shots. Martin Jones, who struggled in the preseason, has an .859 save percentage in the early going and is expected to start for San Jose.
The Sharks have won the last four meetings by a combined 17-3 margin and have also won their last six trips to New Jersey.