New-look Red Wings face tall task in opener vs. Devils

The Detroit Red Wings believe their time is now.

They haven’t qualified for the playoffs during the past seven seasons. With several veteran additions, the Red Wings are optimistic they can end that drought.

They’ll open their season on the road against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night in Newark, N.J.

The Red Wings finished last season with 35 victories and 80 points, better than each of their previous six seasons but still well short of a postseason berth.

“The guys in the room, we talked about it last year, we want more,” team captain Dylan Larkin said. “There are guys coming in that have been on teams that have been locks for the playoffs. Veteran players, guys going into contract years. I like the dynamic of everyone’s situation and we’re going to rely on each other to keep pushing and to get off to a great start and remain consistent. I know the guys in our room want to play in the playoffs, and I want to make the playoffs as well.”

Larkin will have a dynamic scorer and fellow Michigan native alongside him on the first line. The Red Wings acquired wing Alex DeBrincat from the Ottawa Senators, then signed him to a four-year extension.

DeBrincat scored 41 goals on two occasions during his five seasons with Chicago. He had 27 goals during his lone campaign with the Senators in 2022-23.

Center J.T. Compher, who played in parts of seven seasons with Colorado, was signed to a five-year contract as a free agent. He’ll anchor the second line in Detroit.

Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman also added wings Daniel Sprong, Klim Kostin and Christian Fischer, defensemen Jeff Petry and Shayne Gostisbehere and backup goaltender James Reimer via trade or free agency.

However, they know expectations are low outside of their locker room.

“Obviously, no one has us making the playoffs,” Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde said. “I don’t necessarily have that as a knock on our guys. There’s really nowhere to go in the division. … I saw an article, ‘The 10 Hopeless Teams.’ I scrolled through and we’re the first hopeless team. It’s up to us to change that narrative.”

The Devils racked up 52 wins and 112 points last season after failing to qualify for the postseason the previous four campaigns. They lost to Carolina in the second round of the playoffs.

New Jersey acquired 34-goal scorer Tyler Toffoli from the Calgary Flames but otherwise will ride with the group that produced the third-most points in the league last season.

The Devils are led by Jack Hughes, who had team-leading totals in goals (43), assists (56) and points (99) in 78 games last season. He added 11 more points (six goals, five assists) in 12 postseason contests.

The top overall pick of the 2019 NHL Draft should be even more dangerous after his breakout season.

“We’re heading into the year probably with our best team yet,” Hughes said.

New Jersey now has to prove it is a perennial contender. With offensive threats like captain Nico Hischier (90 points), wing Jesper Bratt (73 points) and defenseman Dougie Hamilton (74 points), there’s no reason to anticipate a dropoff.

“We’ve earned the right to embrace those expectations,” said Devils head coach Lindy Ruff, who signed a multi-year contract extension on Wednesday.

“That is something that going into last year we talked a lot about — playing meaningful games and being a playoff team. We ended up in a great position. Now we know what is expected, we know where we’re at. I think you have to welcome that.”