Well, it's time for the obligatory 2013 season preview for the New Jersey Devils. But this isn't your typical season, obviously, so trying to answer questions seems fairly daft when a season has been cut in half and teams are expected to hit the ice skating after a week's worth of practice.
So let's make a few educated guesses here about the Devils in particular and the NHL as a whole.
* Lots of groin pulls — This will be the injury du jour this season, especially early and especially for older players and those who didn't go hard during the lockout. As a result, expect to see a lot of different players over the course of the season as coach Pete DeBoer looks to keep his team fresh, and more importantly, healthy.
* Split 'em up — It would be shocking to see Marty Broduer play the majority of the games this season. In the past, Brodeur could do 48 games standing on his head, but this season, it's really a sprint to the playoffs and that's where you look to do your damage. So expect Brodeur and Johan Hedberg to split the load during the regular season. Bot are quality goalies, but both are older and there is no use in seeing one get injured because time off due to injury this season will be especially damaging.
*Young legs, better future – No, Petr Sykora wasn't re-signed, but that isn't a disaster. When Sykora slumped in the playoffs he likely punched his ticket out of town. The Devils have invested in young forwards over the last few seasons and this may be the time to see if they can really play. We're talking to you Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson!
Lou Lamoriello has successfully used an approach they cycles players through the team. There is a mix of veterans, young players in their primes and younger players looking to break through. With this system, you can't clog up roster spots with too many veterans because it slows down the development process. So, while re-signing a player like Sykora, or some of the other "names" on the waiver wire might seem like a good idea now, you end up hurting the development of your younger players. And with the emphasis on young legs this season, that's not a good plan.
*What about goals? – The Devils will get their share of goals. It looks daunting to see 52 goals from Zach Parise and Sykora needing to be replaced, but Travis Zajac is healthy again and the Devils have made quite a commitment to him contract-wise.
Veterans like Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias will score. So too will David Clarkson and Dainius Zubrus. Here's hoping a sophomore jinx doesn't bite Adam Henrique.
* What about the defense? – It appears eight will be enough defensemen at least to start the season and that's a good move. New Jersey's defensemen may not be sexy, but they are solid, led by new captain Bryce Salvador.
Marek Zidlicky is a solid pro who will be here from the get-go and another solid pro, Henrik Tallinder is healthy. Anton Volchenkov, Andy Greene and Mark Fayne are all capable NHL defensemen. Peter Harrold is versatile and showed well in the playoffs last spring.
And remember, we haven't even mentioned Adam Larsson and he may be ready to blossom after gaining so much experience last season.
*So, what's the outlook? — The regular season may not be pretty for the Devils, just as it won't be pretty for most teams. But the regular season isn't the prize here. The trick will be to stay healthy and avoid any prolonged slumps. Just get to the playoffs and then see what happens. It was a pretty good formula for the Devils back in 1995, wasn't it?
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