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At the Rink: Devils visit Flyers

by Mike G. Morreale / New Jersey Devils

PHILADELPHIA -- The New Jersey Devils will begin the season with a significantly different look on defense Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.

The departures of Anton Volchenkov (Nashville Predators) and Mark Fayne (Edmonton Oilers) opened the door for four players age 23 or younger to make the roster: Jon Merrill (22), Eric Gelinas (23), Adam Larsson (21) and Damon Severson (20).

Those four will join veterans Andy Greene, Marek Zidlicky and captain Bryce Salvador. It appears Larsson will be the odd-man out against the Flyers, but coach Peter DeBoer said after the morning skate no lineup is set in stone game-to-game.

The biggest surprise is Severson, a second-round pick (No. 60) in the 2012 NHL Draft. He'll be paired with Greene in the opener.

"We wanted to give him a partner that could help him, and there's no better guy than Andy to help a young guy along," DeBoer said. "[Greene] is so smart and communicates on the ice and is a perfect partner for a young guy playing his first game."

Severson said he is looking forward to making his NHL debut, especially in Philadelphia.

"I didn't get the chance to play in the preseason game in Philadelphia so it's my first time here and first NHL game; everything is going to be an eye-opening experience," Severson said. "At the same time, I have to play hockey and have to do my thing out there to be successful."

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound right-hand shot had a strong training camp in 2013 but was returned to his junior team, the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League, where he had 15 goals and 61 points in 64 games. That fourth full season in junior hockey proved to be critical as he made an even greater impression this preseason.

The Devils opted to keep Severson rather than veteran Peter Harrold, who was sent to the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League after clearing waivers Wednesday.

Severson said he is looking forward to playing alongside Greene.

"If we see something for one another I'm not afraid to approach him, and he knows as a veteran guy he can say anything he wants to me and I'll take the positives," Severson said. "It's really good having him back there with me. Hopefully we can mesh together well."

Greene said he expects Severson to play well.

"He's very mobile, makes a lot of great plays, can skate like the wind and is very confident," Greene said. "It's a fun place to start off here in Philly and it'll be a good lesson for him, a good first test."

The Devils are 18-8-1 with four ties in their history in season openers, but 2-4-1 in the past seven. The Flyers lost to the Boston Bruins 2-1 at TD Garden on Wednesday.

Here's the projected lineup:

Mike Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Dainius Zubrus - Patrik Elias - Martin Havlat

Ryane Clowe - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder

Tuomo Ruutu - Stephen Gionta - Jordin Tootoo

Andy Greene - Damon Severson

Eric Gelinas - Jon Merrill

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Cory Schneider

Scott Clemmensen

Scratched: Damien Brunner, Jacob Josefson, Adam Larsson

Injured: None

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