From Comcast SportsNetNEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils have started the lockout-shortened season in playoff form. The Philadelphia Flyers seem to have missed the opening bell.Brodeur made 24 saves for his 120th NHL shutout, Ilya Kovalchuk scored on a short-handed penalty shot, and the Devils won their home opener in front of an enthusiastic sellout crowd with a 3-0 victory over the winless Flyers on Tuesday night.It was the first meeting between the long-time divisional rivals since New Jersey eliminated Philadelphia in five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Devils again had the Flyers' number and beat them for a fifth straight time.Travis Zajac and David Clarkson scored first-period goals to provide all the offense Brodeur would need en route to his 10th shutout of the Flyers."It was a long time coming," Brodeur said. "I thought we had a great run in the playoffs, and our fans were great. With the lockout, we didn't know how these fans would respond. They showed tremendous support."I thought we played pretty good and gave them some excitement. Hockey is back in New Jersey, I guess."The Flyers dropped to 0-3, matching their worst start since they also lost their first three games in the lockout-shortened 1995 season.Philadelphia rebounded that year to win the Atlantic Division, and the Devils won their first Stanley Cup championship that season with Brodeur in goal."It's not time to panic, but we have to tighten the screws," Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said. "After the bad start we can't keep losing games anymore because you will never get out from the bottom of the standings because you don't have enough games."That's why we have to be with the attitude that's it's the playoffs."The 40-year-old Brodeur was in postseason form, especially in the first period when he stopped all nine Flyers shots."It shows how good an athlete he is," Clarkson said of Brodeur. "Marty is one of the best athletes I've played with. It's impressive to see him at that age doing what he's doing and having fun doing it. He makes us a better team every night."The Devils had only three shots in the first period, but Zajac and Clarkson scored. That duo also had goals in the Devils' 2-1 season-opening win over the Islanders on Saturday."They only had three shots so I don't think we played bad hockey," Flyers forward Max Talbot said. "The only thing we can do is keep working hard. It would be easy to panic. It's about work ethic. Yes, it's three games and we don't have a point but we need to keep working and battling."Kovalchuk, who played in Russia during the lockout and was a little late in getting back for training camp, brought the crowd of 17,650 to its feet on the Devils' fourth shot of the game early in the second period. He was hooked by defenseman Kimmo Timonen on a semi-breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot at 2:44.The 29-year-old Kovalchuk wasted no time once the puck was put down at center ice. He skated quickly at Bryzgalov and beat him with a backhander to the upper part of the net for his first goal of the season."It's a 50-50 chance and I was fortunate to score," Kovalchuk said. "He's a big goalie and I knew he would go down if I faked him. I beat him this time, but it's a long season."The only question after that was whether Brodeur would add to his career-leading shutout total. Wayne Simmonds had the best scoring chance with a shot from the right circle that had Brodeur out of position. However, the 19-year veteran slid across the crease and made a pad save.It must have frustrated Simmonds because he bumped Brodeur after another glove save later in the period, sparking a little melee. Clarkson and Simmonds traded punches in a third-period scuffle."I didn't hit him too hard," Simmonds said. "I just gave him a little push that I kind of thought he over exaggerated, and it worked. He is one of the best goalies who ever played. He can do whatever he wants in this league."The Flyers held New Jersey without a shot for a 12:25 span in the first period but still trailed 2-0.Zajac gave the Devils the lead after only 67 seconds. The center who signed a 46 million contract last week, stopped a point shot by Bryce Salvador right at Bryzgalov's doorstep and tucked the puck around the goalie into an open net.Clarkson extended the lead to 2-0 with 24.9 seconds left in the opening period with a fluky power-play goal. He centered the puck from the side of the net, and it hit off the stake of Flyers forward Ruslan Fedotenko and caromed into the net.Brodeur had three excellent saves in the opening 20 minutes. He made a skate save on a point shot by defenseman Andrej Meszaros, stopped Fedotenko on a rebound, and made a one-on-one stop against Scott Hartnell with the Flyers coming at him in waves.Notes: Brodeur also has 10 shutouts against the Islanders. ... Kovalchuk's goal was the Devils' first short-handed, penalty-shot score since Zach Parise had one on Oct. 21, 2011 vs. San Jose. ... Kovalchuk has scored on three of four penalty shots in his career. ... New Jersey is 17-8-5 in home openers. ... Tye McGinn, recalled from Adirondack of the AHL on Monday, made his NHL debut for the Flyers. He replaced Zac Rinaldo who sustained a cut to his right thigh against Buffalo on Sunday. ... Philadelphia RW Danny Briere missed his third straight game. He broke his left wrist playing overseas during the lockout. ... Former Islanders D Bruno Gervais, who signed as a free agent during the offseason, made his Flyers debut.
From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.
Weight: 170 pounds
"He's got the puck skills, is a good skater, and is a guy with some high-end offensive talent. He wants to get right in there and play where it's hard and where you get rewarded. When he gets that puck on his stick, he wants to bury it."
NHL player comparable: Torey Krug/Kris Letang
Fit for Blackhawks:
It's no secret the Blackhawks are looking to restock their pipeline with some high-end defensemen. Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell are on the way. But the former isn't a lock to be a full-time NHLer this season and the latter will continue playing in college for the 2018-19 season.
Hughes, who shined at Michigan and the IIHF World Championship with Team USA, would have the best chance of the three to crack the Blackhawks lineup first. The problem is, he likely won't be available at No. 8, so if Hughes is the guy they're locked in on, they'd need to trade up to grab him.
If they did that, Hughes would give the Blackhawks a third blue line prospect they can get excited about. He's a left-handed shot, which evens out the balance in the system, and he would become a prime candidate to eventually replace Duncan Keith as the team's No. 1 defenseman.
ST. LOUIS — It's night and day watching the 2018 Cubs compared to the 2017 version.
Even with the injury to Javy Baez Sunday night, the Cubs are in a way better spot now than they were a year ago.
On June 17 of last season, the Cubs sat at 33-34 with a run differential of just +6.
They looked flat more often than not. "Hangover" was the word thrown around most and it was true — the Cubs really did have a World Series hangover.
They admit that freely and it's also totally understandable. Not only did they win one of the most mentally and physically draining World Series in history, but they also ended a 108-year championship drought and the weight of that accomplishment was simply staggering.
The 2018 iteration of the Cubs are completely different.
Even though they didn't finish off the sweep of their division rivals in St. Louis Sunday night, they're still only a half-game behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central and for the best record in the league. A +95 run differential paced the NL and sat behind only the Houston Astros (+157), Boston Red Sox (+102) and New York Yankees (+98) in the AL.
Through 67 games, the Cubs sat at 40-27, 13 games above .500 compared to a game below .500 at the same point last summer.
What's been the main difference?
"Energy," Joe Maddon said simply. "Coming off the World Series, it was really hard to get us kickstarted. It was just different. I thought the fatigue generated from the previous two years, playing that deeply into the year. A lot of young guys on the team last year.
"We just could not get it kickstarted. This year, came out of camp with a fresher attitude. Not like we've been killing it to this point; we've been doing a lot better, but I didn't even realize that's the difference between last year and this year.
"If anything, I would just pinpoint it on energy."
Of course the physical component is easy to see. The Cubs played past Halloweeen in 2016 and then had so many demands for street namings and talk shows and TV appearances and Disney World and on and on. That would leave anybody exhausted with such a shortened offseason.
There's also the mental component. The Cubs came into 2018 with a chip on their shoulder after running into a wall in the NLCS last fall against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have a renewed focus and intensity.
But there's still plenty of room for more. The Cubs aren't happy with the best record and run differential in the NL. They know they still haven't fully hit their stride yet, even amidst a 24-13 stretch over the last five weeks.
"I think we've been pretty consistent," Jon Lester said. "We've had some ups and downs on both sides of the ball as far as pitching and hitting. But the biggest thing is our bullpen and our defense has been pretty solid all year.
"That's kept us in those games. When we do lose — you're gonna have the anomalies every once in a while and get blown out — we're in every single game. It's all we can do. Keep grinding it out.
"Our offense will be fine. Our defense and the back end of our bullpen has done an unbelievable job of keeping us in these games. And if we contribute as a starting five, even better.
"You have the games where our guys get feeling sexy about themselves and score some runs. That's where the snowball effect and we get on that little bit of a run. I feel like we've been on a few runs, it just hasn't been an extended period of time. I don't have any concerns as far as inside this clubhouse."
Lester hit the nail on the head. The Cubs sit at this point with only 1 win from Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood struggling with command and low power numbers from several guys including Kris Bryant.
Throw in the fact that Joe Maddon's Cubs teams always seem to get into a groove in August and September when they're fresher and "friskier" than the rest of the league and this team is currently in very good shape for the remainder of the year.
If they can get 3 wins away from the World Series after going 33-34, the sky should be the limit for a 2018 squad that's in a much better position 67 games in.