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Meet the new-look Devils

Saturday, 09.04.2010 / 2:55 AM / 2010 Offseason News

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

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Meet the new-look Devils
The 2010-11 season is still a couple of months away, but the New Jersey Devils already have made significant changes after falling short in the playoffs.
What hockey fans have seen from the New Jersey Devils in recent weeks points clearly to the fact Lou Lamoriello wasn't kidding when he indicated people would be surprised by the changes that were coming in New Jersey.

The bitter taste of the first-round loss to the Philadelphia Flyers may not be completely gone for Lamoriello, New Jersey's longtime president and general manager, but he can surely taste some pretty sweet success thanks to a number of moves that have radically changed New Jersey's roster and will bring a bigger, more offensive lineup to the fore for 2010-11.

Here is a look at the changes Lamoriello has made since the Devils' season ended in a five game series loss to the Flyers.

Ilya Kovalchuk -- Not a new face, but there were few who expected Kovalchuk to be anything but a "rental" when he was acquired from the Atlanta Thrashers last season for winger Niclas Bergfors, defenseman Johnny Oduya, prospect Patrice Cormier and a first-round draft pick.

The fact the Devils were able to re-sign Kovalchuk, the cream of the free-agent crop, is the surest sign around that New Jersey is looking to remain among the NHL's elite teams and carve out more far success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs than has been visible in the last three seasons.

Anton Volchenkov -- The big shot-blocking defenseman was another prize on the free-agent market and would appear to be a perfect fit in New Jersey, where the ability play defense is prized. Volchenkov doesn't bring the offensive skill of the departed Paul Martin, but he plays a strong physical game as well as being a shot-blocking machine.

"Volchenkov, we certainly have played against enough, and he's going to do something in our zone that we have not had recently, in fact since Scott Stevens left," Lamoriello said. "He's going to make it very difficult to play in that zone and he will complement the [Colin] Whites and the [Bryce] Salvadors."

Henrik Tallinder -- The former Buffalo Sabre's all-around game is similar to what the Devils lost in Martin. At 31, Tallinder still is in his prime and should make a seamless transition to New Jersey's way of doing things. With the Devils expected to break in three young Swedish players in the near future -- Mattias Tedenby, Jacob Josefson and Alexander Urbom -- Tallinder will likely serve as a mentor in their development.

"We've always liked him," Lamoriello said of Tallinder. "We played against him enough in Buffalo. In particular, for me, he came to the forefront on the job he did playing alongside (Tyler) Myers and how he helped him along. There was another factor in that: we have three young Swedish players, one defenseman in Urbom and two young forwards in Tedenby and Josefson, who will be given every opportunity to make this team. We thought he would be just perfect in helping them develop and come along."

Johan Hedberg -- You wouldn't think a team boasting Martin Brodeur would need another veteran goalie, but Hedberg brings a level of experience that will enable New Jersey to give Brodeur more time off -- not something he necessarily wants, but seems likely in the new order of things. Playing for Atlanta last season, Hedberg posted a 21-16-10 record with a 2.62 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage and three shutouts in 47 games. He's made 30 or more appearances in three-straight campaigns, so signing in New Jersey could be a challenge in terms of ice time.

"Hedberg understands his role, and he's looking forward to it," Lamoriello told the team web site. "He's extremely excited, in fact, all three players, I was really pleased with the conversations I had with them today."

Jason Arnott --
A back-to-the-future move for the Devils, bringing back the hero of the 2000 Cup Final. Arnott scored the overtime goal that won the Cup for the Devils against Dallas and he also centered the highly successful "A Line" with Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora. Arnott returns from Nashville to give the Devils another offensive center to ease the burden on Travis Zajac and give New Jersey two strong offensive lines.

"Jason Arnott is a player who brings size, strength, and experience to our hockey club," Lamoriello said. " There is no question he strengthens our center ice position."

"As a rookie, I'm in a learning process. I had a great experience last year in Lowell being a head coach and making decisions. For me, I'm not going to complicate a whole lot of things. I think, if we can get back to playing Devils hockey, and to me, something that even when I broke in as a player and being here as a coach, we were a hard-working team, night in, night out. Just get back to the basics of that, incorporate a few things here and there, and I think we'll be successful team." -- Devils head coach, John MacLean

Coaching staff -- After Jacques Lemaire's abrupt retirement after the 2009-10 season, the Devils turned to their all-time scoring leader in John MacLean as coach. A longtime fixture on the New Jersey bench, MacLean coached the AHL's Lowell Devils last season and not only got the team into the postseason, but earned praise for the way he handled the bench from Lowell players who made the trip to Newark in 2009-10. Schooled in the Devils' system, MacLean also played an offensive game in his prime and said he will bring that element to the Devils in 2010-11.

"As a rookie, I'm in a learning process," MacLean said when he took the job. "I had a great experience last year in Lowell being a head coach and making decisions. For me, I'm not going to complicate a whole lot of things. I think, if we can get back to playing Devils hockey, and to me, something that even when I broke in as a player and being here as a coach, we were a hard-working team, night in, night out. Just get back to the basics of that, incorporate a few things here and there, and I think we'll be successful team."

MacLean also will have new assistants, as Hockey Hall of Famer Larry Robinson returns from special assignment status to be a fulltime assistant who will work with the defense. New Jersey will have a new face too, as Adam Oates, one of the top playmakers and faceoff men of his generation, will be MacLean's other assistant.

Not done yet -- There will be more pruning to the roster in the coming weeks as New Jersey looks to become cap-compliant. Lamoriello also wants to get some younger faces into the lineup, so the Devils may look even more different when the puck drops on the 2010-11 season.
Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic