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New-look Devils try to re-establish playoff profile

Monday, 08.04.2014 / 11:06 AM / Features
By Mike G. Morreale  - NHL.com Staff Writer
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New-look Devils try to re-establish playoff profile
Scoring has been tough for the New Jersey Devils since the departures of Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, but a retooled offense could help them in their quest to end a two-season Stanley Cup Playoff drought.

The road to the Stanley Cup Playoffs hasn't been an easy one for Peter DeBoer since he led the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year as their coach three seasons ago.

That was a time when DeBoer had the services of All-Star forwards Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, who combined for 68 regular-season goals and 16 playoff goals during that run to the 2012 Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings. The Devils scored 146 even-strength goals in 2011-12.

They've failed to qualify for the playoffs since then, and, not surprisingly, have struggled offensively. The Devils scored 110 regular-season goals in the 48-game 2012-13 season, 67 at even strength. Last season, the Devils scored 197 goals, 136 at even strength.

Will the upward trend continue with the depth general manager Lou Lamoriello has incorporated in DeBoer's fourth season?

"It's lip service until you actually do it, but I believe we've gone through a couple of transition years here," DeBoer said. "After the loss of some key guys it hasn't been easy, but I think [Lamoriello] has done a great job of trying to fill the voids. Now, on the coaching level, we've got to find a way to put the mix together.

"But I like the group we've assembled and I think we'll be very competitive."

DeBoer is glad much of the core group remained intact this offseason, and is excited to have free-agent forwards Mike Cammalleri and Marty Havlat on board to bolster the offense. He's happy with the look of his forward lines, including what is shaping up to be a very productive top nine.

"When you look at the teams that were there in the end last season, I think there's a common theme of being strong down the middle," DeBoer said. "I like the idea of [Travis] Zajac, [Patrik] Elias and [Adam] Henrique down the middle for us; I think that gives us a center ice that's comparable to anybody in the League.

"I think we can create three scoring lines that are dangerous every night. We weren't a very good 5-on-5 scoring team last year, and that was probably the biggest thing we wanted to fix."

The Devils had two 20-goal scorers last season, Jaromir Jagr and Henrique, but they could have more this season with Cammalleri and Havlat, who scored at least 20 goals in six of his 13 seasons in the League, most recently in 2010-11 with the Minnesota Wild when he played 78 games and had 62 points.

Defensively, the Devils lost Anton Volchenkov and Mark Fayne, but DeBoer is confident Adam Larsson, Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill will enter training camp on a mission to prove themselves worthy of full-time roles.

"I like the fact our back end is going to have the ability to move pucks better than maybe we have in the past," DeBoer said. "The key for us is being able to move pucks and create more offense from our back end without jeopardizing our foundation, which has always been our defensive game."

The foundation supporting that will be goaltender Cory Schneider, who signed a seven-year contract extension in July reportedly worth $42 million. It will mark the first time in his seven seasons in the League that he enters a training camp (his second with the Devils) knowing he will be the No. 1 goalie. In five seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, he was behind Roberto Luongo. In his first with the Devils last season, it was Martin Brodeur.

"I may have to create a controversy on my own just to feel comfortable," Schneider told TSN Radio, tongue in cheek. "Seriously though, I'm flattered that Lou chose me to carry on the legacy that Marty established; that couldn't have been an easy decision for him.

"The thing is, I won't be Marty Brodeur because he's a unique player, but he's created a tradition of excellence in goal in New Jersey and that's the tradition I want to continue."

DeBoer acknowledged two areas he isn't concerned with entering 2014-15. The first is Schneider taking the reins as the starter for the Devils, and the second is Jagr having another productive season. The 42-year-old was re-signed to a one-year contract in April after playing all 82 games in 2013-14. He had 24 goals, 67 points and a plus-16 rating.

"There's not a day that goes by in the summer that I wonder whether we have a starting goalie or not; that's so far down my list of things I'm worried about that I can't even see it from here," DeBoer said. "Prior to signing Jagr last summer, I had some doubts as to how much this guy had left. But after working with him and seeing his passion for the game and how he worked, I don't have any doubts about it anymore."

OFFSEASON OUTLOOK

2013-14 record: 35-29-18, 88 points; 6th in Metropolitan Division, 10th in Eastern Conference

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Did not qualify

Additions: F Mike Cammalleri, F Marty Havlat, G Scott Clemmensen

Subtractions: D Anton Volchenkov, D Mark Fayne

Pending free agents: F Ryan Carter (UFA), G Martin Brodeur (UFA)

Promotion candidates: G Keith Kinkaid, F Reid Boucher, F Stefan Matteau, F Joe Whitney

Top 2014 NHL Draft picks: C John Quenneville (No. 30), D Josh Jacobs (No. 41)

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 65 41 18 6 175 146 88
2 NYI 66 42 21 3 211 185 87
3 TBL 66 40 20 6 217 173 86
4 NYR 63 39 17 7 197 155 85
5 DET 62 36 15 11 182 160 83
6 PIT 63 36 18 9 182 158 81
7 WSH 66 35 21 10 194 164 80
8 BOS 63 31 22 10 168 165 72
9 FLA 65 28 23 14 159 185 70
10 PHI 65 28 25 12 173 187 68
11 OTT 62 28 23 11 176 167 67
12 NJD 64 27 27 10 144 165 64
13 TOR 65 26 34 5 175 199 57
14 CBJ 63 26 33 4 163 201 56
15 CAR 62 24 31 7 144 167 55
16 BUF 64 19 40 5 123 215 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
M. Cammalleri 52 24 10 5 34
A. Henrique 57 12 20 -2 32
P. Elias 54 10 17 -12 27
S. Gomez 40 5 19 -10 24
T. Zajac 56 10 10 -3 20
S. Bernier 49 10 9 0 19
A. Larsson 46 3 16 5 19
M. Ryder 44 6 12 -2 18
A. Greene 64 2 13 7 15
E. Gelinas 44 5 9 -2 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 24 23 6 .928 2.17
K. Kinkaid 3 4 3 .915 2.59