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Devils need more goals, steady Schneider to win

by Mike G. Morreale / New Jersey Devils
Devils coach Peter DeBoer is happy to keep most of his core group intact this offseason, and is excited to have free-agent forwards Mike Cammalleri and Marty Havlat on board to bolster the offense.

The Devils didn't exactly set the world on fire offensively in 2013-14 and that was a major reason they failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs a second straight season. But DeBoer, in his fourth season with the Devils, is optimistic about the future of his offense, including what is shaping up to be a very productive top nine.

"When you look at the teams that were there in the end last season, I think there's a common theme of being strong down the middle," DeBoer said. "I like the idea of [Travis] Zajac, [Patrik] Elias and [Adam] Henrique down the middle for us; I think that gives us a center ice that's comparable to anybody in the League."

The success of the offense will go a long way in determining the playoff fate of the Devils this season. Here are three things that need to happen in 2014-15 for the team to maximize its potential.

1. Increased scoring at even strength -- New Jersey's 5-on-5 play last season was a major Achilles' heel, finishing next to last in the League with 128 goals scored. DeBoer is confident he'll be able to create three scoring lines that will push and create opportunities every night.

"We talked about our 5-on-5 scoring at the end of last season and we all feel that's the biggest area that needed to improve," Henrique said.

The Devils had two 20-goal scorers last season, Jaromir Jagr and Henrique. They could have more this season with Cammalleri and Havlat. Cammalleri has scored 20-plus goals in six of his 11 seasons in the League and Havlat has at least 20 goals in six of his 13 seasons.

2. Cory Schneider needs to continue his solid play -- This happens to be one area DeBoer and his players aren’t too concerned with, since Schneider proved himself time and again last season. He’ll enter the season as the undisputed starter for the first time in his career.

"I think it'll be better for Cory knowing he'll be playing 60-plus games entering a season instead of wondering if he'll be in and out of the lineup each night," Henrique said. "Cory is our No. 1 goalie and the team has backed that with the new contract. He's a young goalie and will have a chance to be the No. 1 for a long time."

Zajac agreed.

"His preparation for games and just the way he carries himself, nothing really gets him rattled," he said.

3. Secondary scoring is needed -- Not only does DeBoer need his star players on offense to provide scoring, but he'll need some big contributions from the back end and those third- and fourth-line players.

This includes all rookies earning a spot in the lineup during the course of the season. It might not be good enough to just play a mistake-free game; rather, the Devils need their young players to become consistently valuable offensive assets.

"We need everyone to be able to chip in; the forwards must earn their ice time and respect what the coaches are trying to get across," Henrique said.

DeBoer would also like to see his young defensive corps, which will likely include Eric Gelinas, Adam Larsson and Jon Merrill, to play a big part in the offense.

"I like the fact our back end is going to have the ability to move pucks better than maybe we have in the past," DeBoer said. "The key for us is being able to move pucks and create more offense from our back end without jeopardizing our foundation, which has always been our defensive game."

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