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For starters, Devils seek early jump

Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 7:40 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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For starters, Devils seek early jump
Parise and Devils looking to get out of gate quickly in 2011-12.
(New Jersey Devils)
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Last season, a 9-25-2 start put the Devils so far out of the playoff hunt that they couldn't recover. It's no wonder then that on the first day of training camp, many stressed the importance of a strong start to 2011-12.

"It’s huge," said Patrik Elias. "Right from the get-go, the first games, they’re very important. You've got to get confidence into the locker room. The guys need to get confidence as a group, as individuals. We know from what happened last year that we had that at the beginning, then we lost a few games and all of a sudden it snowballed."

By the time the wins finally did pile up last year, it was too late.

"We didn’t get any luck on our side and just started to panic, squeezing our sticks," Elias said. "All of a sudden, we turned back and we had 40 games behind us that we couldn’t turnaround. It is important to trust each other, get on the same page, system-wise, with the new coach."

A 31-goal campaign from Ilya Kovalchuk was a bright spot, but left the Devils short of where they wanted to be.

"We still didn’t achieve our goal," Kovalchuk said. "That was a good run and that was way more fun than the first half, that’s for sure. We don’t want to put ourselves in that hole again. We have to start really good."

Will it be hard for this group to put that behind them? Elias doesn't think so. Jacques Lemaire righted the ship in January, and the hope is that new coach Peter DeBoer's uptempo system will keep wind in the Devils' sails. 

"Gotta let it go," said Elias. "Every year is different. We have a lot of new faces around. It’s a fresh start for everyone. The system will be changed in little ways, so we have to adjust to that, every one of us. If you don’t win the first couple of games, you can’t panic. It’s a long season and obviously you do want to start off well."

Elias summarized DeBoer's message: "In the past, maybe we were too passive positioning-wise playing a little too much. He wants to change that, he wants to be aggressive, obviously [force turnovers] as much as possible in the right places on the ice."

If the Devils can put it all together early, their goal of the postseason will stay within reach.

"We need to get back there, get ourselves back in the top eight in the East," Zach Parise said. "You have to start somewhere. We’ve definitely got the ability to do it, we’ve got a good team, we’ve got good players. We’ll try our best."

Parise is one of the Devils poised for a successful campaign. He's looking to bounce back after knee surgery cost him most of 2010-11. He returned to play one game on April 2 before the decision was made to shut him down for the year.

Parise doesn't expect the time away to slow him down.

"I personally felt a little rusty today, but I’m sure everybody did out there just from the long layoff," he said. "The way I’m approaching it, it’s not much different than any other summer or from any other of these players. They’ve been done since April also. I don’t think it’s going to be much different from what I missed compared to what these guys missed. They haven’t played hockey in a long time, either. I don’t think I’m going to be behind them or anything."

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Henrique 75 16 27 -6 43
M. Cammalleri 68 27 15 2 42
P. Elias 69 13 21 -20 34
S. Gomez 58 7 27 -10 34
S. Bernier 67 16 16 2 32
T. Zajac 74 11 14 -3 25
A. Larsson 64 3 21 2 24
A. Greene 82 3 19 1 22
E. Gelinas 61 6 13 -2 19
M. Ryder 47 6 13 -1 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 26 31 9 .925 2.26
K. Kinkaid 6 5 4 .915 2.59