Following the conclusion of Wednesday's practice at Prudential Center, the Devils remained on the ice at RWJ Barnabas Health Hockey House to put in some post-practice work on skill areas. Some players worked on one-timer execution, passing and shooting. Some players worked on tip drills in front of the net. And for the centers, gathered in the neutral zone, it was all about the faceoffs.
The Devils struggled in the circle during the 2020-21 campaign, and with the current lineup configuration, it will need to be an area of concentration this season.
New Jersey has a lot of young centers. Given the current four-line construction, the oldest center on the team is Michael McLeod at 23. He's followed by Nico Hischier, 22, Jack Hughes, 20, and Dawson Mercer, 19. And faceoffs tend to be an area of weakness for any neophyte centerman.
Video: Lindy Ruff | PRACTICE RAW 10.13.21
"If you look at the center ice position, we're pretty young at it," head coach Lindy Ruff said. "It was an area that we improved on in the latter half of the year. We want to continue to try and improve if we stay on it from Day 1.
"We want to keep working with them on a daily basis to try to improve that area for us."
The Devils do have some older veterans in camp that can also take draws if called upon, among them being PTO-turned-contract signees Jimmy Vesey and Frederik Gauthier, both of whom also worked on faceoffs after practice. And if any of the young centers struggle in a game, the club could turn to the vets.
"In games it's different," Gauthier said. "You can practice as much as you want, but as soon as you get into the game it's totally different. It's been good, and it's always nice to work on it in practice."