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Devils bolstering offensive attack

Thursday, 09.04.2008 / 9:26 AM / News
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Devils bolstering offensive attack
The Devils, usually a defensive-minded club, went out and upgraded the offense this summer, bringing in Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik in an attempt to the ease the pressure on goaltender Martin Brodeur.

New Jersey brought back Brian Rolston with the hope that the veteran forward will provide a spark to a Devils' offense which ranked near the bottom of the League last season.
The Devils are a team that usually just dips a toe into the free-agent market. This summer, though, GM Lou Lamoriello dove in head-first, handing out contracts to forwards Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik, while re-signing defenseman Bryce Salvador.

After averaging just 2.42 goals per game -- the fourth-lowest total in the League -- upgrading the offensive attack was a major necessity.

That the Devils stayed in the hunt for the Atlantic Division title all season with such a meager offense is a testament to the continued greatness of goaltender Martin Brodeur. At age 36, Brodeur again will be franchise's most important player.

The team's defense, anchored by Brodeur, remains its backbone, but with more scorers imported, the hope is the Devils can take some of the pressure off their all-world netminder.

Goalies

New superlatives need to be invented to describe Brodeur. He won his fourth Vezina Trophy in the last five years last season, going 44-27-6 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. He extended his NHL record with his third straight and seventh season of 40-plus wins, as well as his record of 11 seasons with at least 35 victories (no other goalie has more than three straight).

New Jersey Devils

Category
Rank (Conference/NHL)
2007-08 Points 99
(4th East/6th NHL)
Change from 2006-07 -8
Home Points 52
(3rdEast/7th NHL)
Away Points 47
(3rd East/6th NHL)

By the time the 2008-09 season ends, Brodeur might add his name to the top of the League's record book in a few other categories, as well. With 14 wins, he'll surpass Patrick Roy's record of 551. When he plays game No. 62 -- he hasn't played fewer than 67 in more than a decade -- he'll pass Roy's mark of 1,029 games played. And with 96 shutouts, he's eight away from passing George Hainsworth for No. 1 in that category. Brodeur also is in line this season to become the all-time leader in minutes played and saves.

Kevin Weekes was signed last summer to take some of the burden off Brodeur, but he played just nine games. Still, Weekes is a competent veteran capable of playing if Brodeur for some reason tires or is injured.

Defense

A large part of the Devils' early defensive struggles was due to the eye injury suffered by Colin White during training camp. The team struggled to an 8-10-2 start without White, but won their first eight when he returned in late November.

Paul Martin and Johnny Oduya add an offensive element to the team's blue line. Martin had 32 points and was a plus-20, while Oduya more than doubled his numbers from 2006-07, finishing with 6 goals, 27 points and a plus-20 rating.

The team re-signed all-round presence Bryce Salvador, as well as Mike Mottau to add depth to the group. Andy Greene and rookies Matt Corrente and Anssi Salmela also will fight for roster spots.

Forwards

Putting Rolston between Zach Parise and Brian Gionta could give New Jersey its most dynamic scoring line in a few years.

Rolston seems to be getting better with age. He had 30 goals each of the last three seasons with Minnesota, including last season when he turned 35. Rolston also should quarterback a power play that should improve from No. 25 in the League last season.

Parise led the team with 32 goals and 65 points, and if he plays a full season alongside Rolston, those numbers could rise dramatically. Parise also improved from a combined minus-4 in his first two seasons to a plus-13 in 2007-08, tops among the club's forwards.

Gionta scored 48 goals in 2005-06, but has just 47 combined in the last two seasons. The addition of Rolston, plus Parise's development, should alleviate some of the offensive burden Gionta has had to carry.

The return of Rolston and Holik also allows Patrik Elias to move back to left wing, where he should be more comfortable. Elias had just 20 goals and 55 points last season, his lowest totals since 1998-99 (discounting 2005-06, when he missed most of the season recovering from hepatitis).

Super-checkers John Madden and Jay Pandolfo had strong offensive seasons. Madden had 20 goals and a career-best 43 points, while Pandolfo had 24 points in just 54 games. If they can match those numbers again, the Devils' offense will have an extra dimension.

Jamie Langenbrunner, who assumed the captaincy when he returned from offseason groin surgery, will hope to rebound from a 13-goal season. Holik also is hoping for resurgence by returning to the place where he won a pair of Stanley Cups.

Three reasons for optimism

* Martin Brodeur still wears a Devils uniform. As long as Brodeur continues to pull on the sweater, the Devils will be one of the tougher teams to beat, especially in the spring. And with a number of all-time NHL records within reach, Brodeur should have ample motivation for having another Vezina-worthy season.

* Zach Parise could become the first 100-point scorer in New Jersey history. Patrik Elias holds the mark with 96 points in 2000-01, but the fast-developing Parise could better that. Playing on a line with Brian Rolston certainly should give him more scoring opportunities.

* In his first season behind an NHL bench, coach Brent Sutter showed a good grasp of how the game is played at its highest level. Going into his second campaign, he'll have a better grasp of his players, and the players will better understand what the coach expects of them.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.

Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
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12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 82 24 43 16 67
P. Elias 65 18 35 -4 53
T. Zajac 80 18 30 3 48
A. Henrique 77 25 18 3 43
M. Zidlicky 81 12 30 -3 42
M. Ryder 82 18 16 -6 34
A. Greene 82 8 24 3 32
E. Gelinas 60 7 22 -3 29
D. Zubrus 82 13 13 1 26
R. Clowe 43 7 19 -10 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 16 15 12 .921 1.97
M. Brodeur 19 14 6 .901 2.51