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Devils lineup boasts depth up front, youth on defense

Monday, 08.4.2014 / 11:28 AM ET / News
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Devils lineup boasts depth up front, youth on defense
The New Jersey Devils added depth up front this offseason after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in nearly 30 years.


Forward Mike Cammalleri is one of the biggest acquisitions of the Devils' busy offseason.


Since the Los Angeles Kings defeated the New Jersey Devils in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, the Kings have played 44 Stanley Cup Playoff games and won a second championship in three seasons.

That is 44 more games than the Devils, who missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1985-86 and 1986-87. Ten of the 24 players who appeared in at least one playoff game during New Jersey's 2012 run remain with the team.

The two stars of that 2012 group, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, left in successive summers, and it appears the franchise's most iconic player, goaltender Martin Brodeur, has played his last game with the Devils. If losing Parise and Kovalchuk didn't signal the start of a new era, moving on without Brodeur certainly does.

New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello made one of the best signings of the 2013 offseason when Jaromir Jagr joined the Devils. He became their best player and fortified his status as one of the all-time great forwards. Lamoriello tried to add some options up front this offseason and turned the net over to Cory Schneider on a full-time basis.

The Metropolitan Division looks wide open behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, so a return to the postseason is certainly plausible and maybe even likely if the veterans up front can remain productive and healthy and Schneider confirms a place among the elite goaltenders in the League by finally having the chance to assume a large workload.

Here's a look at the projected 2014-15 lineup for the Devils:

FORWARDS

Mike Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Patrik Elias - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder

Marty Havlat - Dainius Zubrus - Damien Brunner

Ryane Clowe - Stephen Gionta - Tuomo Ruutu

Jacob Josefson - Steve Bernier

The additions of Cammalleri and Havlat gives coach Peter DeBoer more options, and also makes trying to figure out where everyone will fit more difficult. Zajac and Jagr together on the first line and Henrique slotting into the middle of the second seem like the surest bets here.

Beyond that, there are a lot of interchangeable parts. Elias and Cammalleri figure to be the top two guys on the left side. The Devils may want to give Havlat a chance to prove he's not a fourth-line player like he was sometimes deployed with the San Jose Sharks, but he and Clowe could flip spots. The same is true with Ryder and Brunner on the right, or Brunner and Ruutu for that matter. And while Gionta has centered the fourth line for a while now, he had a terrible season in the faceoff circle in 2013-14, so Ruutu could slide over to the middle.

DEFENSEMEN

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Jon Merrill - Marek Zidlicky

Eric Gelinas* - Bryce Salvador

Peter Harrold

The Devils are in an interesting transition period with their defense corps. Mark Fayne is gone, and how much of his possession success was a product of playing with Greene remains to be seen.

New Jersey has three young defensemen in Larsson, Merrill and Gelinas who could all be very good NHL players in short order. There are a couple of other kids in the pipeline who also look very exciting. Where everyone fits in the lineup to start the season is the big question.

Placing each of the young players with a veteran makes a lot of sense. Merrill and Zidlicky played together a lot last season, so that seems like a good place to start. But is Larsson or Gelinas ready for tough minutes with Greene? If not, will DeBoer trust two of the kids together so Zidlicky or Salvador can pair up with Greene?

Another potential issue is depth. The Devils have six defensemen under contract (Gelinas would make seven) who have more than zero games of NHL experience. Among the six defensemen signed to NHL contracts that look likely to begin the year in the American Hockey League, two of them have played more than one season as a professional.

If there are multiple injuries in the defense corps, the reinforcements are either going to be young or come from outside the organization. Don't be surprised if the Devils add a defenseman or two on tryout contracts or two-way deals before or during training camp.

GOALTENDERS

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Schneider has never played more than 45 NHL games in a season. If he doesn't in 2014-15, the Devils are probably looking at three straight springs without any playoff games.

Kinkaid and another young goalie, Scott Wedgewood, will battle with veteran Scott Clemmensen for the backup spot during training camp. Wedgewood is turning 22 years old this month and can be sent to the AHL without going through waivers. If he tossed two shutouts in preseason games, that might not be enough to keep him from continuing his development with regular playing time in Albany.

Clemmensen has played 36 games in the NHL over the past two seasons, and the results haven't been good. Kinkaid might get his chance, with Clemmensen acting as a mentor for Wedgewood in the AHL.

ALSO IN THE MIX: F Reid Boucher, F Stefan Matteau, D Damon Severson, D Seth Helgeson, G Scott Clemmensen

*Restricted free agent

Corey Masisak

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

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