The New Jersey Devils are still looking to rebound from one of their toughest seasons in franchise history. Aside from having their fifteen year playoff streak come to an end, the Devils came to realize a devastating reality: Marty Brodeur is getting old. Though he played well in the latter part of this past season, the all-time winningest goalie was shaken by various injuries all year keeping him sidelined for almost half of his 16th NHL season.
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In addition to the face of their franchise aging and gradually moving closer to the end of his career, the Devils saw their hope for a cup, $100 million forward Ilya Kovalchuk struggle throughout the season putting up a mere 81 points and a -26. There is no doubt the return of the young American forward Zach Parise will provide a spark to the offense and take some pressure of the Russian sniper's soldiers, but there is still reason for concern when it comes to the Devil's hope for a playoff spot.
It has become almost routine for the Devil's to lose a key player before opening night and this year is no different. The Devil's lost their star center Travis Zajac for an undetermined amount of time. Zajac and Parise have been throughout their young NHL careers have complimented each other and often led the Devil's to offensive success.
As always, the Devil's defense is a question mark. Bryce Salvador is supposed to return for opening night but he has not played in a full season and the Devil's two big defensive free-agent signings of a year ago (Henrik Talinder, and Anton Volchenkov) had disappointingly poor seasons this past year. As the teams around them like the Rangers, Islanders, and Penguins continue to improve the Devil's no doubt have a long road ahead of them to reach the playoffs.
Teams like the Flyers and the Bruins who always seem to give the Devil's trouble are no doubt ready to stamper on their playoff hopes, but I believe that the Devil's do have the team to snag a low playoff spot. IF they can stay healthy and avoid devastating injury, their new coach Peter DeBeor can lead them to a winning season and grant them a spot as a 7 or 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. It seems highly unlikely the Devs will be able to steal away the Atlantic division title but with work they can rebound and make the playoffs this year and start a new streak and era of winning in New Jersey.
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