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Devils ready to open preseason slate

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Jamie Langenbrunner and Devils skate into Philly for preseason opener tonight.
The games don’t count, but the Devils are energized and ready for the new preseason. They open the six-game exhibition schedule tonight in Philadelphia (7 p.m. ET).

Following two days of practices and Monday’s intrasquad scrimmage, the Devils' 2010-11 tune-up continues with their first matchup with another club.

“We have to get the game feel and find the rhythm and timing of games,” said Johan Hedberg, who will start in goal. “I need to get my mental focus for a game, but I feel like I’m prepared for getting in my first game.”

The Flyers eliminated the Devils in the first round of playoffs last spring before reaching the Stanley Cup Finals and losing to Chicago. Hedberg’s ready for what's typically a charged-up Philly crowd.

“It’s always a tough building to come into, and I’m sure they’re going to be ready to go,” Hedberg said. “They had a great finish last year. Everybody that comes in wants to start off on a good note. Everybody on this team wants to play well and I’m sure it’s going to be a good game.”

Entering his 10th year, Hedberg signed was this summer to back up Martin Brodeur and tonight makes his Devils debut. He's anxious, but in a good way.

“I’m always nervous,” he said. “If I wasn’t nervous, I’d be nervous that I wasn’t nervous. I think it’s for me, a key ingredient for my focus. It lets me know that it’s something I care about and something that I want to do well at.”

Tonight’s lineup will be similar to the Red team that lost Monday’s Red-White scrimmage, 4-3, on Alexander Vasyunov’s overtime goal. The only two changes were the additions of Vasyunov in place of Vladimir Zharkov on Adam Mair’s line, and Nick Palmieri in place of Rod Pelley on Brad Mills’ line.

Like Hedberg, rookie center Jacob Josefson will make his first appearance. This is the chance he’s been hoping for since camp began.

“It’s a great opportunity for me,” said New Jersey's 2009 first-round pick. “I really wanted to play some exhibition games here. It’s going to be really fun.”

Josefson, 19, has been centering a line with veterans Dainius Zubrus and David Clarkson.

“He’s very helpful,” Josefson said of Zubrus. “He talks to me a lot on the ice. He and Clarkson are very helpful. It’s very easy to play with them.”

With that kind of veteran guidance, he knows what to expect.

“A lot of guys have told me that the first exhibition game is always a good speed and physical,” he said. “They prepared me for that, so that’s good.”

Clarkson said Monday that Josefson plays a confident style. Maybe that’s why, as of the morning skate at least, Josefson had yet to come down with any first-game jitters.

“No, I’m not nervous right now,” he said. “We’ll see later tonight, maybe. I don’t usually get nervous.”

Head coach John MacLean will be watching to see how Josefon fares.

"Like the rest of them, we’re going to see how he handles playing against a different team," MacLean said. "There will be different NHL centers he’s playing against, I’m sure. I don’t know what Philly’s lineup is, but just to see how he handles it. It’s in a different environment, on the road. Philly, it’s an interesting building. Just get his feet wet and we’ll see how it goes."

As for Vasyunov and Palmieri, MacLean knows them well. Both spent last season in Lowell (AHL), where MacLean was a first-year coach.

“Both young guys, both vying to be noticed here,” he said. “Vas got the big goal yesterday in the scrimmage, we’ll see what they can do. Vas has been skating well in camp. Nick had a good year last year, put some goals up. He’s a big guy and we’ll see how he develops as we go forward.”

Add MacLean to the list of names making debuts tonight. He'll be making his first appearance behind the bench since being named Devils head coach in June.

"I feel good," he said. "I’m excited about it. First game, it’s like first game every year – you’re just anxious to get going. Training camp you play against one another and then you’re anxious to see different things happen in real games when you’re playing against a different organization. That’s why I’m excited to see what happens, and then we can have some things to work on and/or tweak."

Fraser won this bout last year with Colorado's Ryan Wilson.
Fraser ready to battle
It's been almost one year to the day since Mark Fraser was injured in a fight with Dan Carcillo during a preseason game in Philadelphia. He missed the first eight games of last season, and although he went on to play 61 NHL contests, he's not taking anything for granted this year.

"I still feel like I have a ton to prove, not only to the team but to the League," Fraser said. "The physical play is something that is expected from me and something that I’m willing to do. Whether it’s my first year or my second year, that’s not going to change."

Expect more tough play in 2010-11 from the big rearguard, who re-signed with the Devils in July.

"I tried to continue to play physical and if I continue to play that way, the fights are going to happen," he said. "There comes a time when you’re going to have to defend yourself, as well. That’s something that I’ve always been comfortable doing and actually expect to do more of."

Like his teammates, Fraser's excited to get back at it.

"Absolutely – we’re back doing what we all love to do. Every day or every preseason game that goes by, you’re that much closer to the actual regular season starting. That’s what we’re all here for. I think Day One of the season is one of the most exciting times of the year.  We’re all back, we’re all comfortable, we’re all on the same page and nothing’s really happened to disrupt us. We have a blank slate ahead of us. I think that’s definitely one of the most exciting times of the year."

Lines from 9/21 morning skate
Patrik Elias - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Dainius Zubrus - Jacob Josefson - David Clarkson
Alexander Vasyunov - Adam Mair - Marcus Nilson
PL Letourneau-Leblond - Brad Mills - Nick Palmieri

Bryce Salvador - Andy Greene
Alexander Urbom - Henrik Tallinder
Mark Fraser - Matt Corrente

Johan Hedberg
Mike McKenna

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