The Devils have never been ones to seek outside approval.

It was easy to ignore all of those who were critical of their style of play when they were winning the Stanley Cup three times from 1995 to 2003. As they head into their 2013-14 opener tonight in Pittsburgh however they face a growing mob of doubters that might not be as easy to ignore.

After missing the playoffs two of the past three seasons and losing Ilya Kovalchuk when he chose to return to Russia this summer there are not many outside of New Jersey who believe this team can get back to the postseason next spring. If anything however that's providing some extra motivation to return to the place they feel they belong.

"My father told me today that they projected us to be second to last or something" longtime Devil Patrik Elias said Wednesday. "That's OK. Good."

The Hockey News and USA Today picked the Devils to finish last in the newly formed eight-team Metropolitan Division. Sports Illustrated placed them 15th — ahead of only Florida — in the Eastern Conference.

"It's the same every year" center Travis Zajac said. "I definitely don't think we get the respect sometimes we deserve but we've got a quiet confidence about ourselves right now."

The Devils take their cue for their president and general manager Lou Lamoriello who plainly states "I believe in this team. I don't allow what other people think or say to get in the way of my belief."

No doubt the prognosticators can't get past the departures of Kovalchuk and right wing David Clarkson who led them with 15 goals last season before signing with Toronto as an unrestricted free agent. In 2011-12 however the Devils surprised everyone by reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. They'd like to come up with another surprise for the experts this season.

"I think we're capable of winning the Stanley Cup" Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "We go into every season with that mind-set. We've got a lot of guys in that room and on this team that less than 24 months ago were playing in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals and I think that's our mind-set.

"The predictions are just more fuel for our fire."